UPDATE: Several Injuries and Extensive Vandalism Reported After Violent Protests at U.C. Berkeley
Several injuries have been reported and at least four banks have been vandalized tonight after demonstrators marched away from the scene of a violent protest at a canceled speaking event by controversial far-right writer and speaker Milo Yiannopoulos on the University of California at Berkeley campus.
UC Berkeley police placed the campus on lockdown and ordered students to leave the area earlier this evening. A shelter-in-place order was issued for the area due to the protest, which police described as a “dangerous situation.” They announced a dispersal order on Twitter at 6:45 p.m., but as of 6:55 p.m. there were few officers on the plaza to enforce it.
Around 7:20 p.m. officers issued a 10-minute warning, threatening to use less-lethal weapons including chemical agents and batons if the crowd failed to disperse.
An attendee at the event was hit with a pole by protesters. He had been hiding a Make America Great Again hat under his hood before the attack, according to a witness who asked to have his name withheld.
When the victim revealed the hat, he was knocked to the ground. Other protesters attempted to strike him while he was down, according to the witness. Police watching from a balcony above observed the situation and came down to help him out of the crowd.
After the attack, blood was seen on the ground in the plaza.
At least one pyrotechnic device was thrown at police by the demonstrators earlier this evening. It exploded near one of the officers, according to UC Berkeley student Russell Bierle.
The event barricades were breached and used to smash the windows of the campus bookstore, where the entrance to the event was located. A large fire was set in front of the building and it briefly spread to a nearby tree.
The barricades directly in front of the bookstore were dismantled by protesters in masks. Many from the crowd gathered on the bookstore’s steps.
Around 8:05 p.m. the protesters marched south on Telegraph Avenue, away from the scene of the demonstration. They smashed ATMs at a Bank of America branch and set several trash fires on Telegraph Avenue.
After marching west on Durant Avenue, the group moved north on Shattuck Avenue, smashing windows and vandalizing a Mechanics Bank branch near the corner of Bancroft Way.
Chase and Wells Fargo branches were also vandalized. A Starbucks location near campus was vandalized and looted.
At 9:23 p.m., BART officials announced that trains were not stopping at the Downtown Berkeley station due to a civil disturbance in the area.
At 9:24 p.m., UC Berkeley police reported that protesters were heading back toward campus on Center Street.
By 10 p.m. the protesters returned to Telegraph Avenue and Bancroft Way, where they began to disperse on their own.
By 10:15 p.m. BART officials had re-opened the Downtown Berkeley station.
Berkeley police said that three or four injuries were reported as a result of fighting at tonight’s protest, and they are investigating reports of a possible hit-and-run crash in which a driver may have struck a person with a vehicle.
They also received reports that banks were set on fire in the area of Center Street and Shattuck Avenue, according to police.
Hundreds of protesters were observed at this evening’s event. Over 2,100 people responded to a Facebook post that they would be attending.
Yiannopoulos’s events have drawn tense protests throughout the country, including a recent event that was canceled shortly before it was scheduled to begin at the University of California at Davis due to angry protests outside.
UC Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof said that they have studied how the protests have escalated at other campuses and planned accordingly.
“The concerted effort was to really take a close look at lessons learned at other events,” Mogulof said.
After Yiannopoulos was invited by Berkeley College Republicans, students at UC Berkeley called for the school to cancel the event and ban him from the campus.
UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks responded to the outcry with an open letter to the campus community last week, affirming that Yiannopoulos would be allowed to speak because of the free speech rights of the campus Republicans, but said that Yiannopoulos’s message is at odds with the values of the campus.
Dirks called him a “troll” and “provocateur.” Critics have said that Yiannopoulos is misogynistic, anti-Islam and racist. Campus republicans called him “amusing and provocative” in the event invitation.
Yiannopoulos has been a journalist for right-wing news publication Breitbart under Steve Bannon, now an advisor to President Donald Trump. He has a book coming out later this year published by Simon & Schuster, a deal that was widely protested.
Yiannopoulos issued a statement about the turmoil at this evening’s event on Facebook.
“I have been evacuated from the UC Berkeley campus after violent left-wing protestors tore down barricades, lit fires, threw rocks and Roman candles at the windows and breached the ground floor of the building,” Yiannopoulos said.
“My team and I are safe. But the event has been cancelled. I’ll let you know more when the facts become clear. One thing we do know for sure: the Left is absolutely terrified of free speech and will do literally anything to shut it down.”
The Berkeley College Republicans also issued a statement on the night’s events.
“Today, the Berkeley College Republicans’ constitutional right to free speech was silenced by criminals and thugs seeking to cancel Milo Yiannopoulos’ tour,” the group said.
“Their success is a defeat for civilized society and the free exchange of ideas on college campuses across America. We would like to thank UCPD and the university administration for doing all they could to ensure the safety of everyone involved.”