“I saw these people. They all looked almost paramilitary. They were not from the campus.”
In the wake of a University of California Berkeley protest that saw demonstrators burn campus lights and a sign for Breitbart News editor Milo Yiannopoulos in effigy, Donald Trump has threatened to cut federal funding from public colleges infringing on free speech.
But at least one Berkeley professor believes the so-called alt-right may have instigated the violence.
“I was there for part of last night and I know what I saw. Those people were not Berkeley students,” former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich told CNN’s Don Lemon, reiterating the statement issued by the university regarding the incident. “Those people were outsiders, agitators. I’ve never seen them before. There’s rumors that they actually were right-wingers. They were a part of a group that were organized and ready to create the kind of tumult and danger you saw that forced the police to cancel the event.”
Turning to Trump’s remarks, Reich highlighted Berkeley’s history as the “home of free speech.”
“Donald Trump, when he says Berkeley doesn’t respect free speech rights, that’s a complete distortion of the truth. I mean, Berkeley opened its biggest auditorium to this right-wing Breitbart News character, this hateful, odious person. They said, ‘Free speech is the most important thing we stand for,’ and it was these outsiders who caused the police to finally come in and have to cancel it,” Reich pointed out.
“You think it’s a strategy by Yiannopoulos, or right-wingers?” asked Lemon. “They put this on in an effort to show there’s no free speech on a college campus like UC Berkeley?”
“I wouldn’t bet against it, Don,” Reich told him. “Again, I saw these people. They all looked almost paramilitary. They were not from the campus. And I’ve heard — again, I don’t want to say factually, but I’ve heard there was some relationship here between these people and the right wing and the right-wing movement that is affiliated with Breitbart News.”