A top US university has been placed on lockdown after violent protests erupted over plans for alt-right British journalist Milo Yiannopoulos to give a speech on campus.
A group of demonstrators at the University of California’s Berkeley campus toppled lamp poles, started fires and hurled objects at officers to protest the Breitbart editor’s appearance, university police reported.
Yiannopoulos - who argues that rape culture is a myth and transgender people are mentally ill - had been invited by the university’s Republican society to give a speech to 500 students about cultural appropriation.
The event was cancelled and Yiannopoulos was evacuated from campus after a group of “several dozen” protestors wearing black face masks and carrying glittery flags arrived at the 1,500-strong demonstration, the Guardian reported.
The group attacked police barricades around the student union building where the event was due to take place, the newspaper said, shooting firecrackers and smashing windows.
As violence escalated, police placed the campus on lockdown and students were advised to shelter in place.
In a Facebook post, Yiannopoulos said the violence showed that “the Left is absolutely terrified of free speech and will do literally anything to shut it down”.
Describing himself as a “gay technology editor”, he added in a video: “It turns out the progressive left... which has become so antithetical to free speech has taken a turn post Trump’s election.
“Where they simply will not allow any speaker on campus even someone as silly and harmless and gay as me, to have their voice heard.
“They are absolutely petrified by alternative visions of how the world could look,” he continued.
“I am of course not the racist or sexist or anything else that the posters that they put up claim that I am.”
He also accused of police and the university of not really wanting the speech to go ahead, saying officers had taken a “sit back and let it happen” approach to the protests.
Last week, students and staff demanded the cancellation of the event on the grounds that Yiannopoulos was attempting to spread hate.
But UC Berkeley’s chancellor Nicholas Dirks said it would be unconstitutional to block the event.
“Mr Yiannopoulos is not the first of his ilk to speak at Berkeley and he will not be the last,” Dirks said in a statement.
“In our view, Mr. Yiannopoulos is a troll and provocateur who uses odious behaviour in part to ‘entertain,’ but also to deflect any serious engagement with ideas.”
Yiannopoulos was banned from Twitter last year after he incited his followers to bombard Ghostbusters actress Leslie Jones with racist and demeaning comments.
Some students expressed their disappointment that they had not been able to debate the journalist’s views, while others criticised the violent protestors.
Allie Smith, 22, a Berkeley City College student, told The Huffington Post that the vandals had tarnished an otherwise positive experience. As she spoke, a brass band played and a crowd danced.
“This is what I came here for ― people who want to be together,” said Smith, who advocated “creating safe spaces rather than meeting hate with hate.”
In the UK, a talk he was due to give at his former secondary school was cancelled after the Department for Education’s Counter extremism unit raised safety concerns over the “threat of demonstrations”.