Berkeley Mayor, Police Union Blame University for Not Preparing for Milo Riot

hammer and sickle at Berkeley (Elijah Nouvelage / Getty)
Elijah Nouvelage / Getty

The Mayor of Berkeley and the University of California Police Department (UCPD) union blamed the administration of UC Berkeley on Friday for not preparing for the violent riot that forced the cancellation of a speech by Breitbart News tech editor Milo Yiannopoulos, according to Bay Area public broadcaster KQED.

The UCPD reported that out of 1,500 demonstrators, about 150 masked individuals, using paramilitary tactics, led the violence by hurling Molotov cocktails, setting fires, throwing fireworks at police, pushing barricades into windows, and damaging campus and city property. They estimated that the protestors caused about $100,000 in damage to the campus, and significant damage to downtown businesses along Telegraph Avenue, including Bank of America.

Despite claims that outside agitators took over the event, the call to shut down Milo was advertised in a January 31 editorial in the Daily Californian student paper by first year Boalt Hall law student Mukund Rathi. According to the DC editorial:

“The Berkeley Against Trump coalition, previously known as the Berkeley J20 coalition, invites all solidarity-minded students and other members of the campus community to protest with us against far-right agitator Milo Yiannopoulos on Feb. 1.”

The Rathi editorial asked students to gather at 5 p.m. at Sproul [Plaza] and show their “unwillingness to allow” Milo Yiannopoulous to speak in support of “bigotry” at a time when the “forces of oppression are ascendant nationally.” Rathi stated that “UC Davis shut down an event showcasing Yiannopoulous,” and argued students were taking power: “The university administration’s refusal to cancel Yiannopoulos’s event is irrelevant — the campus belongs to the students, staff and faculty who run it, and in our numbers we will demonstrate exactly how we will run it.”

Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin said in an interview with UC Berkeley News that since Milo allegedly provoked violence on other campuses, “I think the university should have consulted with the city before they made the decision to invite this person [Milo] to the campus.”

Dan Mogulof, Asst. Vice Chancellor, Communications and Public Affairs, University of California, Berkeley, countered the mayor by claiming the UCPD was in touch with Berkeley city police about the event well before Wednesday night.

But John Bakhit, an attorney who represents the Federated University Police Officers Association, told KQED that the union also blamed the UC administration. “They [UCPD] were unable to assist the citizens and the public that were out there that were defenseless against these rioters, who were actively engaging in breaking the law and attacking defenseless citizens.” He added, “When these rioters saw that there was no action taken against them, it emboldened them into acting more aggressively.”

Sgt. Sabrina Reich, a UCPD public information officer, said campus police only arrested one protestor during the February 1 riot, while a non-student was charged with failure to disperse after announcements. The next morning, they arrested two men not affiliated with the campus for attacking two UC Berkeley College Republicans participating in an interview in front of Sproul Hall. Sgt. Reich stated that a total of nine people were treated for injuries at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center over a two-day period.

UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks and other campus officials have condemned the actions of protesters who committed vandalism. Dirks said the “violence was an attack on our fundamental values, which are maintaining and nurturing open inquiry and an inclusive, civil society — the bedrock of a genuinely democratic nation.”


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