In response to protests on the U.C. Berkeley campus on February 1, Donald Trump tweeted the following:
The U.C. Berkeley protests were a response to the university's scheduled speech from Milo Yiannopoulos, the far-right Breitbart News Editor. You can read more about what happened during the protests here. Although the protests turned violent, many were shocked at Trump's suggestion to take away federal funds from a university that is ranked 20th in the nation. Fresh U caught up with eight college students from across the nation to learn about their views on the incident. Their responses are as follows:
- Abbie Turrisi, freshman at Temple University:
"I find it ironic that the man who has slandered the media on various occasions is now suddenly concerned with free speech and allowing different viewpoints. Regardless, I think what happened at UC Berkeley last night was unacceptable. I understand the anger -- many American people are angry and upset right now. I don't understand the use of violence. I think a large peaceful protest would have made a significant statement. I would like to point out that those who rioted last night do not represent the protestors who have been active peacefully across the country for the past few weeks. Also, I am continually awed that this man is allowed to tweet. The fact that major threats are being made over Twitter is both baffling and frightening to me, and I fear how we are being perceived by the rest of the world at this point in time."
- Alex Mark, freshman at Temple University:
"As Breitbart news seeps into the mainstream, the lines between hateful acts and hate speech are more blurred than ever. Trump is threatening to cut off one of the foundations of America, our education system, in order to make way for his new and twisted form of politics."
Branden Faulkner, freshman at University of New Mexico:
"This tweet by our new president bothers me for a multitude of reasons. First off, the highest seat in our government is threatening one of the country's top schools with the rescinding of federal aid, which is the definition of coercion. If Berkeley caves to this threat it will set a standard and prove that the president can threaten anyone in order to have his will realized, which frankly scares me. Furthermore, it is slightly hypocritical for Mr. Trump to criticize an organization for denying free speech, as he is well known for the exact same thing. Many times on the campaign trail he threw peaceful protesters out of his rallies and encouraged a violent response. Given this and the fact that he is abusing his power to intimidate those who disagree with him, I hope that Berkeley chooses to handle the matter in a manner appropriate to the actions of the protesters and not give in to this executive pressure."
Ethan Smith, freshman at Missouri University of Science and Technology:
"While I don't agree with the violence that occurred during the protests, I feel that Donald Trump's response is worrying for a few reasons. First of all it shows the amount of influence that Steve Bannon has on him, as Milo works at Breitbart. Second is that this shows a petty and vindictive nature, which is not good whatsoever for diplomatic policy, as seen in his recent phone call with the Australian PM. Lastly I am terrified this will be used as a justification to infringe upon 1st amendment rights, especially given that a number of states with Republican legislatures have begun considering legislation that would limit peaceful protests. Generally I think this tweet sets a worrying precedent the next four years."
Hussain Rao, sophomore at University of Missouri, Kansas City:
"President Trump’s violent threat to strip UC Berkeley of federal funding was unjustified and immaturely delivered on twitter. After the eruption of a violent protest, I believe that canceling the event was simply a matter of safety. It’s interesting that Trump discredits any news organizations or articles that oppose him, but viciously supports the free speech of those who support him."
Karly Matthews, freshman at Temple University:
"While I don't agree with the President that UC Berkeley should be denied federal funds for actions of students (as opposed to actions of administrators), I do think that the demonstration last night was far closer to a riot than a peaceful protest like is protected under the First Amendment. From completely destroying a campus Starbucks to pepper-spraying a fellow student, demonstrators crossed a dangerous line. When demonstrations get violent and profane, the underlying cause for unrest is shrouded, and the general public will not sympathize with the protesters. Personally, even as a conservative, I do not necessarily agree with Milo in many issues, but I do think that his freedom of speech should be protected on a campus that has fought for free speech in the past. So, while I believe President Trump's tweet is rash, I do think that protests turned riots are an issue we need to talk about as a country. They're not effective, and they're not First Amendment actions."
Mason Trafford, freshman at University of Missouri:
"One of the most frustrating things about Trump's presidency so far is how contradictory and hypocritical he is. Trump is now threatening to defund U.C Berkeley, one of the most prestigious universities in the country. And why is he threatening to do this? Because '...U.C Berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view...' Trump accuses people of this yet he himself is guilty of all these accusations. He has removed journalists with opposing views from his press conferences without even acknowledging them, bans entire countries from coming to the U.S., defunds Planned Parenthood, and plans to build a wall at another country's expense. We are not even a month into his presidency and it is already going this poorly. If this is a clue as to what the next four years of this presidency will be like, America is screwed."
Zoe Plumb, freshman at Roger Williams University:
"The fact that [Trump] wants to take away federal funds to a school because of a protest is a joke. He is willing to take away students abilities to get a degree and have a good job, just because of a protest. What next, if you think something is unjust you will lose your future?"
While the majority of students Fresh U interviewed believed that the violent protests were ineffective, they did agree that President Trump's actions were rash.
Lead Image Credit: Donald Trump via Twitter