Rhea Mahbubani

‘It Was Just Horrific': UC Berkeley Students Question Seemingly Tepid Police Response to Violent Protests

Tensions remain high at UC Berkeley a day after people violently opposed a Milo Yiannopoulos event by setting fires, damaging buildings and injuring students – some of whom are now questioning whether police responded forcefully enough to protect them.

Pranav Jandhyala recalled people smashing windows of the MLK student union building before turning on him.

“I was just assaulted by a group of people in masks,” he said.

Jandhyala, who writes for a student-run newspaper said he has since received treatment for a concussion.

“It was just horrific,” he said. “People were assaulting people indiscriminately.”

Fellow student Robert Smith said he heard a “loud boom.” The sound marked the moment when protesters “knocked over this large generator.”

“And I think that was the start of it,” he said of the ensuing chaos.

Smith, a photographer who took pictures of the protest, recounted attacks on several fronts, but very little police presence. He believes campus police let it get out of hand.

“I definitely think that as soon as the fireworks started coming up, they should have stepped in,” he said.

However, university spokesman Dan Mogulof said dozens of police officers were brought in from nine of the UC system’s 10 campuses to assist with the Yiannopoulos event that was scheduled for 8 p.m. He argued that the violence didn’t escalate further because police officers did not respond aggressively to protesters.

“They used paramilitary tactics, were armed, covered from head to toe, wearing masks,” he said of the violent protesters, which he deemed “totally unprecedented on this campus.”

Most protesters were not UC Berkeley students, he insisted.

“I think our police did an admirable job, particularly given that as of now we’ve had no reports of serious injuries,” Mogulof said.

However, Jandhyala disagreed. When asked if he thought police had done enough to ensure students’ safety, he replied: “I don’t think so.”

Meanwhile, several UC Berkeley students agreed that the violent protesters were not representing the students who were there to protest peacefully.

"They're definitely not a part of the university," senior Danny Phan said. "These are not the values that we have here. They're a third-party group that came from somewhere else."

Yvette Felarca organized a different protest group. She's glad the actions were taken to shut out Yiannapoulos.

"We were united in the many diverse and different ways people express their determination to stop fascism and stand up against racism," said Felarca, an organizer for By Any Means Necessary. "We knew what had to be done, had to be done."

She said the vandalism is a small price to pay and that the university is responsible.

"Because they absolutely could have shut down the event," she said. "They could have canceled it. They could have found a way to make sure it didn't go forward."

The UC Berkeley police department declined NBC Bay Area’s request for a comment.

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