Berkeley recovers after violent protest against Milo Yiannopoulos

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Michael Wan/Staff

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Clean-up crews comprising students and UC staff worked early in the morning Thursday to clear debris remaining from acts of violence against conservative speaker Milo Yiannopoulos’ campus appearance, originally scheduled to occur Wednesday evening.

A peaceful protest organized by students in response to Yiannopoulos’ speaking event was interrupted by about 150 outside agitators who destroyed campus and city property, prompting the University of California Police Department to cancel the event about 6 p.m. Many students and campus administrators expressed disappointment over the escalation of violence, emphasizing that damage caused by outside groups was not affiliated with the student protest.

“The violence last night was an attack on the fundamental values of the university, which stands for and helps to maintain and nurture open inquiry and an inclusive civil society, the bedrock of a genuinely democratic nation,” said Chancellor Nicholas Dirks in a campuswide email statement Thursday.

According to Berkeley Police Department Officer Byron White, at least 15 different buildings Wednesday were vandalized. ATMs at several banks, including the Bank of America on Telegraph Avenue and the Wells Fargo banks located on Bancroft Way and Shattuck Avenue were left graffitied with screens shattered. Windows of buildings such as the Starbucks on Oxford Street, which was also robbed, and the T-Mobile on Shattuck Avenue were still shattered and boarded shut Thursday.

On campus, a large burn mark was left on Sproul Plaza in front of the ASUC Student Union’s Amazon pick-up location where a fire was set Thursday night. The windows of the Amazon pick-up location were also shattered and sealed off, with paint spots on the ground left from paint thrown at the windows of the Student Union building. The damage inflicted upon campus property was estimated to cost $100,000, according to the campuswide email.

According to students who were present at the protest, violence was instigated by members of off-campus groups. A campuswide email sent Wednesday night condemned “the actions of individuals who invaded the campus, infiltrated a crowd of peaceful students, and used violent tactics to close down the event.”

Several individuals were physically attacked Wednesday night. One member of the Berkeley College Republicans was assaulted Wednesday night and another two Thursday, according to BCR head of communications Celine Bookin. One man was arrested Wednesday night during the protest for allegedly staying “in the place of a riot,” according to UCPD spokesperson Sgt. Sabrina Reich, and another two individuals were arrested for allegedly assaulting BCR members Thursday morning.

“I am in support of peaceful protests — I think that’s a perfectly acceptable way to protest — but once it turns violent that makes me lose respect for the cause, and it makes it hard for a potentially opposing listener continue to listen to their argument,” Bookin said.

By Any Means Necessary organizer Yvette Felarca said campus administration and Chancellor Dirks should have predicted that response of this magnitude would occur, citing the string of protests that erupted before Yiannopoulos’ speaking events scheduled at several other college campuses, including UC Davis and the University of Washington.

“Just the fact that he was allowed to come was already raising the level of racism and hostile campus climate,” Felarca said. “We’ve seen people get shot when he comes to the campuses. Chancellor Dirks knew that and he had the authority to step in for the safety of students to step in, to stop it and to prevent it.”

Many students who supported or attended the protest last night said the ensuing violence did not represent their views. Campus sophomore Juliana Mora organized a student clean-up of Sproul Plaza and other areas that were vandalized, adding that the violence left her “heartbroken.”

“After I saw that there was people breaking our Student Union and trashing our community, I was really heartbroken,” Mora said. “I didn’t want that to reflect on UC Berkeley.”

Roughly 30 students, including Mora, assisted volunteers in cleaning the vandalized sites from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m., helping to clean graffiti, broken glass and debris still remaining.

ASUC President Will Morrow praised students who attended the clean-up effort, adding that it was encouraging to see students wake up at 5 a.m. to clean — even when they did not cause the damage. He added that the resistance dance party held Wednesday night was “student organized, intentionally not violent” and that students involved were acting separately from those who instigated the violence.

On Thursday, Sproul Plaza was crowded with students still discussing the actions of rioters. Closer to Sather Gate, students surrounded the BCR table to engage in debates about the purpose of the original protest. While most students did not approach the table, their main point remained the same — that UC Berkeley did not stand for violence.

“They wanted a peaceful protest and we wanted to shut it down, but not by any means necessary,” said campus senior KayLee Hunt. “This is not Berkeley, this is not what we do as students.”

Contact Sakura Cannestra at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @SakuCannestra.