A visit from Milo Yiannopoulos brought frenzied protests at the University of California, Berkeley on Wednesday, where outbreaks of violence forced officials to cancel his planned speech and briefly lock down the campus.
A large group of peaceful protesters first greeted the polarizing Breitbart technology editor, but agitators threw smoke bombs at police and set fires. Yiannopoulos called the reaction an attempt to stifle free speech, and President Donald Trump agreed.
He raised the specter of cutting federal funds for the renowned public university over the cancellation, tweeting Thursday morning: "If U.C. Berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view - NO FEDERAL FUNDS?"
Yiannopoulos took to Facebook Live a short while after being evacuated with his team, saying it was "ironic and sad" to witness such a reaction at a university that has historically been known as the home of free speech.
"Something very disturbing happened tonight, and it was an expression of political violence in response to a not particularly conservative gay speaker on an American college campus," said Yiannpoulos, who admitted to being "stunned" by the turn of events.
The 32-year-old has been criticized as a racist, sexist, misogynist and white supremacist, but denied all those allegations on Facebook Live.
"They do that in order to legitimize their own violence against you," he said.
Yiannopoulos was referring to feminists, supporters of Black Lives Matter, progressives and the "social justice left." People who identify with these groups have "become so utterly antithetical to free speech," he accused.
"They simply will not allow any speaker on campus even someone as silly and harmless and gay as me to have their voice heard," Yiannopoulos continued with a self-deprecating chuckle. "They're absolutely petrified by alternative visions of how the world ought to look."
Yiannopoulos was invited by the Berkeley Republican Club to speak about cultural appropriation in the Pauley Ballroom of the MLK Student Union at 8 p.m. Nearly two hours prior, though, protesters grew violent, smashing windows, throwing rocks, lighting fireworks and blazes, and tearing down barricades near the venue. He was promptly taken off campus and police ordered students to shelter in place.
Yiannopoulos also didn't spare Berkeley officials and responding police officers.
"Complicit" school administrators "didn’t really want" his event to happen, and officers displayed a "sit back, and let it happen approach," he claimed.
Yiannopoulos said that he had hoped that Berkeley "would be a place where you could be, do and say anything. You could express your views, you could express your opinions, you know, crack some jokes, make people think, make people laugh, free from violent responses to political ideas."
"I thought America was the one place where that would be possible," he lamented.
According to the Associated Press, sales are soaring for his upcoming book "Dangerous." The book is scheduled to come out March 14 and was in the top 10 on Amazon as of Thursday afternoon.
A spokeswoman for Threshold Editions, the conservative imprint at Simon & Schuster, declined comment Thursday when asked where Yiannopoulos was expected to appear for his promotional book tour, assuming there is one.
The book deal for the Breitbart editor was greeted with immediate anger when announced in late December. Hundreds of authors have objected and one writer, Roxane Gay, withdrew a book she had planned for Simon & Schuster.