The University of California at Berkeley announced via Twitter it had canceled a Wednesday night speech by Milo Yiannopoulos, a polarizing Breitbart News editor, amid violent protests on campus, including fires and smashed windows.
CNN reported about half the protesters were dressed in clothing with the name of the school on it. Others were in all black with their faces covered. Some had made shields out of cardboard.
Yiannopoulos, who was escorted off campus, was on the last stop of a tour aimed at defying what he calls an epidemic of political correctness on college campuses.
"It was the police as far as I can tell who made the call to cancel the event," Yiannopoulos told Fox News host Sean Hannity on Wednesday night's "Hannity."
"I certainly had not made that call. I would have proceeded with this event in almost any circumstance unless there was a significant threat to my audience or my team team. The police made a decision."
Tight security was on hand at Berkeley, where several student groups had called for protests and pledged to shut down the evening event. Several of Yiannopoulous' talks at other campuses have been canceled due to protests or security reasons.
The 32-year-old right-wing provocateur is a vocal supporter of President Donald Trump and a self-proclaimed internet troll whose comments have been criticized as racist, misogynist, anti-Muslim and white supremacist. He was banned from Twitter after leading a harassment campaign against "Ghostbusters" actress Leslie Jones.
"Protesters know they cannot get to the president – even when he was the president-elect," Yiannopoulos told Hannity. "They cannot really get to him, so they picked the next best target. I'm a big fan of his. I annoy the feminists, Black Lives Matter guys, almost as much as Trump does. They go to the next best thing. The target they can get to, or the person they can get in close proximity with. They don't scare me"
His visit to Berkeley is sponsored by the campus Republican club. The university has stressed it did not invite Yiannopoulos and does not endorse his ideas but is committed to free speech and rejected calls to cancel the event.
On Wednesday, the university sent a notice to all students that warned of crowds near the student union, where the 500-seat, sold-out event was scheduled.
"We anticipate there will be major protest/demonstration activity leading up to and surrounding this event," the letter from school officials said. It did not discourage protests but advised those who didn't wish to participate to avoid the area.
Pieter Sittler, a spokesman for the Berkeley College Republicans, said the club doesn't support everything Yiannopoulos says but "he gives a voice to repressed conservative thought on American college campuses." He uses "levity and humor" that should not be taken literally, Sittler said.
Yiannopoulos' talks have sparked protests, shouting matches and occasional violence at stops around the country. A man was shot and wounded at protests outside his Jan. 21 talk at the University of Washington.
Rowdy protests at UC Davis Jan. 13 prompted campus Republicans to cancel his appearance last minute. His last stop was supposed to be UCLA on Thursday, but the invitation was rescinded, making Berkeley his grand finale.
"I have been so shocked – I'm here here on a visa actually," Yiannopoulos told Hannity. "I have been so shocked by America, which I thought was going to be the land of the free, home of the brave.
"I discovered that in fact higher education in America college campuses really are some of the most oppressive places for free speech and creativity."
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