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UC Berkeley Protests Spark Debate Over First Amendment

Truthdig – By Emma Niles – Feb 03, 2017

UCBerkeleyProtestsMilo_590
Photo: Protesters move off the Berkeley campus and onto the surrounding streets. (Screen shot via Twitter)

The University of California, Berkeley is known for its decades of progressive protest movements—so it’s no surprise that the campus experienced widespread protests earlier this week in response to an event that was to feature far-right commentator Milo Yiannopoulos.

The event was canceled after a faction of the demonstrators became violent, NPR reports:

It’s far from the first time a Yiannopoulos speaking event was canceled because of protests, which occur regularly at his events.

In a statement, the university said: “The violence was instigated by a group of about 150 masked agitators who came onto campus and interrupted an otherwise non-violent protest.”

The cancellation of the event prompted President Trump to threaten to cut federal funding from the public university:

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

If U.C. Berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view – NO FEDERAL FUNDS?
3:13 AM – 2 Feb 2017

Trump’s tweet sparked a debate about free speech at a time when many are already wondering if the new administration is suppressing the First Amendment.

Many Democrats were quick to respond to Trump’s tweet. Rep. Barbara Lee, who represents Berkeley as part of the 13th District of California, issued a news release Thursday:

Milo Yiannopoulos has made a career of inflaming racist, sexist and nativist sentiments. Berkeley has a proud history of dissent and students were fully within their rights to protest peacefully. I am disappointed by the unacceptable acts of violence by outside agitators which were counterproductive and dangerous.

President Donald Trump cannot bully our university into silence. Simply put, President Trump’s empty threat to cut funding from UC Berkeley is an abuse of power. As a senior member of the education funding subcommittee, I will continue to stand up to President Trump’s overreach and defend the rights of our students and faculty

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi also defended the university. “Berkeley is the center of the free speech movement,” she said. “I think that the protesters have a right to free speech as well. If there is an infiltration of the crowd by those that are less than peaceful, that should be addressed.”

Read entire article here

Posted by Teri Perticone

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