On Thursday morning, Donald Trump took angrily to Twitter to lash out at the University of California at Berkeley for cancelling a scheduled talk by Breitbart Senior Editor Milo Yiannopoulos.
The campus is on lockdown after a series of passionate and occasionally violent protests against Yiannopoulos’ planned speech.
As The Washington Post points out, Trump’s tweet takes a stance that Berkeley is blocking free speech, but his post can be interpreted as a roundabout, indirect message of support for Yiannopoulos and his extremist views:
“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 writes:
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
As you probably know, the staunchly right-wing Breitbart website was founded by Stephen K. Bannon, who’s now one of Trump’s key advisers.
32-year-old Yiannopoulos goes to great lengths to brand himself as a sort of “free-speech fundamentalist” locked in fierce battle with “political correctness.”
On Facebook, he touts himself as “the most fabulous supervillain on the Internet.”
Last year, Twitter banned him for a series of tweets that targeted African-American actress Leslie Jones.
“The event has been canceled,” he wrote on Facebook. “I’ll let you know more when the facts become clear. One thing we do know for sure: the Left is absolutely terrified of free speech and will do literally anything to shut it down.”
A statement from Berkeley emphasized that it went to “extraordinary lengths” to work out the logistics of the event, working with Berkeley College Republicans, adding security in the form of 12 additional police officers, and laying down various crowd-control measures.
But officials claim that about 150 “masked agitators” stormed the demonstration and set fires, tossed molotov cocktails and rocks, and attacking members of the crowd, leading to their ultimate decision to cancel the talk altogether.
Campus officials said in a statement “they 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 the home of the Free Speech Movement.”