President Donald Trump hinted Thursday on twitter at taking federal funds away from the University of California, Berkeley after campus protests escalated to violence Wednesday night, prompting officials to cancel a speech from conservative writer and activist Milo Yiannopoulos.
"If U.C. Berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view - NO FEDERAL FUNDS?" Trump wrote.
If U.C. Berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view - NO FEDERAL FUNDS?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 2, 2017
The tweet came less than an hour after the Twitter account for Fox & Friends posted a video of Fox News host Todd Starnes commenting on the protest saying, "President Trump needs to immediately issue an executive order blocking Berkeley students from receiving any federal funding. The same goes for any public university that wants to silence conservative voices."
There was no indication on whether Trump was referring to the university or the larger University of California system. According to the university's most recent annual financial report, in 2015, over $415 million of UC Berkeley's $1.79 billion operating revenue comes from federal grants and contracts. Just over 30 percent of UC Berkeley students receive money from Pell Grants.
UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks released a statement Thursday about the event and resulting protest, saying, in part, that the university "went to extraordinary lengths" before the event in anticipation of the potential protests.
"Numerous crowd-control measures were put in place" Dirks stated. "But, we could not plan for the unprecedented."
University officials and the campus police department worked closely with the Berkeley College Republicans and other UC campuses who previously had Yiannopoulos speak, in order to try and prevent the mayhem that ultimately occurred.
Campus police had to evacuate the controversial Breitbart editor and self-proclaimed "supervillain of the Internet," who was invited to speak by the Berkeley College Republicans. Yiannopoulos was immediately escorted from the student union building, where his event was to be held, after a crowd of more than 1,500 protesters gathered outside.
The initially non-violent protest was escalated by a about 150 masked agitators who came onto campus, according to the university. Though Yiannopoulos left the campus at around 6 p.m., according to police, riots continued and the university was on lockdown till about 11 p.m.
"We regret that the threats and unlawful actions of a few have interfered with the exercise of First Amendment rights on a campus that is proud of its history and legacy as home of the Free Speech Movement," university officials said in a statement.
According to campus officials, there was around $100,000 worth of damage to campus property, including the broken windows at the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union. The protest later spilled into the city's streets where demonstrators sprayed graffiti on walls, toppled trash cans, and broke the windows local businesses.
One non-student was arrested by campus police after the protest on charges of failure to disperse, university officials said. According to officials, two other men were arrested Thursday morning after 11:30 a.m. after they attacked two Berkeley College Republicans while they were being interviewed.
It wasn't the first time Yiannopoulos' event was met with protesters. Weeks before, at UC Davis, Yiannopoulos and pharmaceutical executive Martin Shkreli were scheduled to speak, but a protest forced university officials to shut down the event before the two could take the stage.
On January 20, one man was shot during a protest of Yiannopoulos' event at the University of Washington. According to The Seattle Times, the suspect, who was Trump and Yiannopolous supporter, told police that he was assaulted and acted in self-defense.
According to his website, Yiannopoulos has no other scheduled events coming up.
Meanwhile, California congressional members are reacting to Trump's tweet, quickly shutting down the executive threat.
"Simply put, President Trump's threat to cut funding from UC Berkeley is an abuse of power," Rep. Barbara Lee, whose district encompasses the Berkeley campus, said in a statement. Rep. Lee sits on the education funding subcommittee and vowed to "stand up" to the president.
Pres. Trump doesn’t have a license to blackmail universities. He’s the president, not a dictator, & his empty threats are an abuse of power. pic.twitter.com/RQTtpCVnIs— Rep. Barbara Lee (@RepBarbaraLee) February 2, 2017
Lee will apparently have the California democratic congressional delegation on her side:
While we do not condone violence, threatening to strip the world's leading public institution & research facility of fed funds is foolish. https://t.co/DZqAX8lW1g— Mark DeSaulnier (@RepDeSaulnier) February 2, 2017