Trump sues Facebook, Twitter and Google, claiming censorship

By Jason Lange and Jan Wolfe

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Former U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday filed lawsuits against Twitter Inc, Facebook Inc, and Alphabet Inc’s Google, as well as their chief executives, alleging they unlawfully silence conservative viewpoints.

The lawsuits, filed in U.S. District Court in Miami, allege the California-based social media platforms violated the right to freedom of speech guaranteed by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Trump is seeking class action status for the lawsuits, meaning he would represent the interests of other users of Twitter, Facebook, and Google’s YouTube who allege they have been unfairly silenced.

He filed three lawsuits making similar allegations — one against Facebook and its CEO Mark Zuckerberg, one against Twitter and its CEO Jack Dorsey, and one against Google and its CEO Sundar Pichai.

“We will achieve a historic victory for American freedom and at the same time, freedom of speech,” Trump said at a news conference at his golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey.

A Twitter representative declined to comment. Representatives of Facebook and Google did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Trump lost his social media megaphone this year after the companies said he violated their policies against glorifying violence. Hundreds of his supporters launched a deadly assault on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 after a Trump speech repeating his claims that his election defeat was the result of widespread fraud, an assertion rejected by multiple courts, state election officials and members of his own administration.

The lawsuits ask a judge to invalidate Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a law that has been called the backbone of the internet because it provides websites with protections from liability over content posted by users. Trump and others who have attacked Section 230 say it has given big internet companies too much legal protection and allowed them to escape responsibility for their actions.

A federal judge in Florida last week blocked a recently enacted state law that was meant to authorize the state to penalize social media companies when they ban political candidates, with the judge saying the law likely violated free speech rights.

The lawsuit said the bill signed by Florida’s Republican Governor Ron DeSantis in May was unconstitutional. It would have made Florida the first state to regulate how social media companies moderate online speech.

(Reporting by Jason Lange and Jan Wolfe, additional reporting by Elizabeth Culliford and Sheila Dang; editing by Scott Malone and Howard Goller)

U.S. Supreme Court invalidates California charity donor disclosure

By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday backed two conservative nonprofit groups that challenged California’s requirement that tax-exempt charities provide the state the identities of top financial donors – a decision that could imperil some political donor disclosure laws and buttress “dark money” donations.

The justices, in a 6-3 ruling, sided with the Americans for Prosperity Foundation and the Thomas More Law Center in finding that the California attorney general’s policy, in place for the past decade, violates the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and association.

The court’s conservatives were in the majority, with its liberal members dissenting, just as they were in the other decision on their final day of rulings for their current nine-month term. In the other case, the court upheld Republican-backed ballot curbs in Arizona in a ruling that makes it earlier for states to enact voting restrictions.

Democratic-governed California, the most populous U.S. state, had said the donor information is required as part of the state attorney general’s duty to prevent charitable fraud.

“We are left to conclude that the Attorney General’s disclosure requirement imposes a widespread burden on donors’ associational rights,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the ruling.

The state’s interest in “amassing sensitive information for its own convenience is weak,” Roberts added.

The Thomas More Law Center is a conservative Catholic legal group. The Americans for Prosperity Foundation, which funds education and training on conservative issues, is the sister organization of Americans for Prosperity, a conservative political advocacy group – both founded by conservative billionaire businessman Charles Koch and his late brother David.

“Stripping our office of confidential access to donor information – the same information about major donors that charities already provide to the federal government – will make it harder for the state to fight fraud and prevent the misuse of charitable contributions,” California’s Democratic Attorney General Rob Bonta said.

Americans for Prosperity Foundation CEO Emily Seidel said the ruling “protects Americans from being forced to choose between staying safe or speaking up,” alluding to her group’s concerns that donors could face threats if their identities become public.

‘A BULL’S-EYE’

The decision could make it easier for groups to withhold donor identities in other contexts, allowing for the entrenchment of untraceable “dark money” political donations that shield the identity of the donor.

The Supreme Court in the past has been hostile to political campaign finance restrictions – it ruled in 2010 that corporations and other outside groups could spend unlimited funds in elections – but had upheld disclosure requirements.

Liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in a dissenting opinion that the court has reversed this previous approach.

“Today’s analysis marks reporting and disclosure requirements with a bull’s-eye. Regulated entities who wish to avoid their obligations can do so by vaguely waving toward First Amendment ‘privacy concerns,'” Sotomayor wrote.

Sotomayor said the court struck down the requirement without any evidence that donors would face negative consequences if their identities become public.

University of California, Irvine School of Law election law expert Rick Hasen wrote on his blog that the ruling will make it “much harder to sustain campaign finance disclosure laws going forward.”

Democratic congressional leaders fumed. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called the decision “jaw-dropping” and said it will make it “much harder to expose the evils of dark money in our political system.”

California required charities to provide a copy of the tax form they file with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service listing donors who contribute big amounts of money. Larger groups had to disclose donors who contributed $200,000 or more in any year. That information was not posted online and was kept confidential but some had become public.

The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2018 reversed a judge’s ruling in favor of the groups, prompting the appeal to the Supreme Court, which heard arguments in March.

Some congressional Democrats had urged conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who was part of the majority in the ruling, not to participate in the case because Americans for Prosperity spent money last year to support her Senate confirmation to the court.

The two groups that challenged California’s mandate were backed by nonprofit organizations spanning the ideological spectrum. Liberal groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, had urged a narrower ruling against California.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)

U.S. Supreme Court backs Catholic group that shunned gay foster parents

By Lawrence Hurley and Andrew Chung

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. Supreme Court embraced religious rights over LGBT rights on Thursday by ruling in favor of a Catholic Church-affiliated agency that sued after Philadelphia refused to place children for foster care with the organization because it barred same-sex couples from applying to become foster parents.

The 9-0 ruling, written by conservative Chief Justice John Roberts, was a victory for Catholic Social Services (CSS), part of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, and represented the latest instance of the Supreme Court taking an expansive view of religious rights under the U.S. Constitution.

The justices decided that Philadelphia’s refusal to use Catholic Social Services for foster care services unless it agreed to certify same-sex couples as foster parents violated the Constitution’s First Amendment guarantee of the free exercise of religion.

Catholic Social Services argued that Philadelphia had penalized it for its religious views and for following church teachings on marriage.

In the ruling, Roberts wrote, “CSS seeks only an accommodation that will allow it to continue serving the children of Philadelphia in a manner consistent with its religious beliefs; it does not seek to impose those beliefs on anyone else.”

Conservative and religious advocacy rights groups cheered the decision – and the fact that the court’s three liberal members joined the six conservative justices – saying it will have a major impact on future legal disputes involving religious beliefs.

“This is a strong ruling in favor of religious freedom, especially for social services providers,” said Lori Windham, a lawyer for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represented the agency and three foster parents in the case. “The court recognized that it is not the government’s place to exclude religious agencies because of their religious beliefs.”

“I am grateful that we can finally rest knowing that the agency that has brought my family together can continue to do the same for other families,” said Toni Lynn Simms-Bush, who has served as a foster parent through Catholic Social Services and was one of the plaintiffs.

‘SELECTIVE ASSESSMENT’

The justices decided that foster care certification provided by Catholic Social Services did not fall under the city’s anti-discrimination ordinance because it is a service not “readily available” to the public.

“It involves a customized and selective assessment that bears little resemblance to staying in a hotel, eating at a restaurant or riding a bus,” Roberts wrote.

The Supreme Court declined to take even-broader action in the form of overruling its 1990 precedent that upheld “generally applicable” laws even if they curb religious freedom. Conservative Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch said the court should have overruled that precedent.

LGBT and other liberal advocacy groups called the ruling troubling but said they were relieved it did not go further.

“Foster care is a government function, and all governments have a compelling interest in ensuring their contract agencies, including faith-based ones, treat all children and families equally. And today’s ruling does mean, at least for now, that different-sex married couples have access to all city agencies, while same-sex couples do not,” M. Currey Cook of the Lambda Legal pro-LGBT rights group said.

Catholic Social Services, which has helped provide foster care services for more than a century, had said it would be compelled to close its foster care operations if it was barred from Philadelphia’s program.

Philadelphia in 2018 suspended foster care referrals to Catholic Social Services after a newspaper report about the organization’s policy against same-sex couples as foster parents, leading the agency to file suit. Catholic Social Services said Philadelphia’s action meant that available foster homes were sitting empty amid a foster care crisis in the city of about 1.5 million people.

The Philadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2019 ruled against Catholic Social Services, saying it had not shown that the city had treated it differently because of its religious affiliation. U.S. District Judge Petrese Tucker in 2018 also ruled against the organization.

Eleven of the 50 states currently allow private agencies to refuse to place children with same-sex couples, according to the Movement Advancement Project, a group backing gay rights.

The Supreme Court in recent years has sent mixed messages on the conflict between LGBT and religious rights.

It backed gay rights in a series of landmark rulings including a 2015 decision legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide and a 2020 ruling that a federal law barring workplace discrimination protects gay and transgender employees.

It also bolstered religious rights in several decisions including a 2014 ruling that let owners of businesses raise religious objections against the government.

No same-sex couple ever sought certification as a foster parent from Catholic Social Services. In addition to same-sex couples, it also will not certify unmarried couples as foster parents, but does not object to certifying individual gay people.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)

Senators vote to proceed with Trump’s impeachment trial, but conviction may prove elusive

By David Morgan and Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A divided U.S. Senate voted largely along party lines on Tuesday to move ahead with Donald Trump’s impeachment trial on a charge of inciting the deadly assault on the Capitol, but conviction appears unlikely barring a major shift among Republicans.

The Senate voted 56-44 to proceed to the first-ever trial of a former president, rejecting his defense lawyers’ argument that Trump was beyond the reach of the Senate after having left the White House on Jan. 20.

Democrats hope to disqualify Trump from ever again holding public office, but Tuesday’s outcome suggested they face long odds. Only six Republican senators joined Democrats to vote in favor of allowing the trial to take place, far short of the 17 needed to secure a conviction.

Convicting Trump would require a two-thirds majority in the 50-50 Senate.

The vote capped a dramatic day in the Senate chamber. Democratic lawmakers serving as prosecutors opened the trial with a graphic video interspersing images of the Jan. 6 Capitol violence with clips of Trump’s incendiary speech to a crowd of supporters moments earlier urging them to “fight like hell” to overturn his Nov. 3 election defeat.

Senators, serving as jurors, watched as screens showed Trump’s followers throwing down barriers and hitting police officers at the Capitol. The video included the moment when police guarding the House of Representatives chamber fatally shot protester Ashli Babbitt, one of five people including a police officer who died in the rampage.

The mob attacked police, sent lawmakers scrambling for safety and interrupted the formal congressional certification of President Joe Biden’s victory after Trump had spent two months challenging the election results based on claims of widespread voting fraud.

“If that’s not an impeachment offense, then there is no such thing,” Democratic Representative Jamie Raskin, who led a team of nine House members prosecuting the case, told the assembled senators after showing the video.

He wept as he recounted how relatives he brought to the Capitol that day to witness the election certification had to shelter in an office near the House floor, saying: “They thought they were going to die.”

In contrast to the Democrats’ emotional presentation, Trump’s lawyers attacked the process, arguing that the proceeding was an unconstitutional, partisan effort to close off Trump’s political future even after he had already departed the White House.

“What they really want to accomplish here in the name of the Constitution is to bar Donald Trump from ever running for political office again, but this is an affront to the Constitution no matter who they target today,” David Schoen, one of Trump’s lawyers, told senators.

He denounced the “insatiable lust for impeachment” among Democrats before airing his own video, which stitched together clips of various Democratic lawmakers calling for Trump’s impeachment going back to 2017.

HOUSE MANAGERS’ CASE ‘COMPELLING, COGENT’

Trump, who was impeached by the Democratic-led House on Jan. 13, is only the third president in U.S. history to be impeached, and the only one to be impeached twice.

His defense argued he was exercising his right to free speech under the Constitution’s First Amendment when he addressed supporters before the Capitol attack.

Bruce Castor, one of Trump’s lawyers, said the storming of the Capitol by hundreds of people “should be denounced in the most vigorous terms,” but argued that “a small group of criminals,” not Trump, were responsible for the violence.

Most legal experts have said it is constitutional to have an impeachment trial after an official has left office.

“Presidents can’t inflame insurrection in their final weeks and then walk away like nothing happened. And yet that is the rule that President Trump asks you to adopt,” Democratic Representative Joe Neguse told the senators.

Most of the senators at the trial were present in the Capitol on Jan. 6, when many lawmakers said they feared for their own safety.

Several Republican senators said they found Trump’s defense, particularly Castor’s argument, disjointed and unclear.

“The House managers made a compelling, cogent case. And the president’s team did not,” said Republican Senator Bill Cassidy, who voted to advance the trial.

Cassidy had voted to block the trial on constitutional grounds last month, a Republican effort that failed 55-45. He was the only Republican to switch sides on Tuesday, a move that prompted the Republican Party in his home state, Louisiana, to issue a statement repudiating his decision.

Watching the proceedings on TV at his Florida resort, Trump was unhappy with Castor’s performance, said a person familiar with the situation.

After the Senate adjourned for the day, Castor told reporters: “I thought we had a good day,” and said he did not anticipate making any adjustments to his planned defense in response to the criticism.

The trial could provide clues on the Republican Party’s direction following Trump’s tumultuous four-year presidency. Sharp divisions have emerged between Trump loyalists and those hoping to move the party in a new direction. Democrats for their part are concerned the trial could impede Biden’s ability to swiftly advance an ambitious legislative agenda.

But few Republican senators appear willing to break with Trump.

Senator Josh Hawley, who helped lead the opposition in the Senate to the presidential election results, predicted that Tuesday’s vote would ultimately reflect the chamber’s final decision.

“That’s probably going to be the outcome, right there,” Hawley told reporters.

One year ago, the then-Republican-controlled Senate acquitted Trump on charges of obstructing Congress and abuse of power for pressuring Ukraine to launch an investigation into Biden and his son Hunter in 2019.

(Reporting by David Morgan and Richard Cowan; Additional reporting by Makini Brice, Susan Cornwall, Karen Freifeld and Steve Holland; Writing by Joseph Ax and Alistair Bell; Editing by Scott Malone, Will Dunham and Peter Cooney)

Judge rejects NRA bid to dismiss or move lawsuit by New York attorney general

By Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A New York state judge on Thursday rejected the National Rifle Association’s bid to dismiss or move a lawsuit by New York Attorney General Letitia James seeking to dissolve the gun rights group.

Justice Joel Cohen of Manhattan Supreme Court ruled six days after the NRA filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy to protect itself from lawsuits, and said it would reincorporate in the more gun-friendly Texas after 150 years in New York.

James had sued the NRA, Chief Executive Wayne LaPierre and others last August.

She accused the group of violating state laws governing nonprofits by diverting millions of dollars to fund luxurious trips for its officials, no-show contracts for associates, and other suspect expenses.

The NRA argued that if the case continued it belonged in the state capital of Albany, where it had its only New York office, and perhaps in federal court, where it has filed a countersuit accusing James of violating its members’ First Amendment rights.

“This is a case of historic constitutional importance,” the group’s lawyer Sarah Rogers argued.

The judge said accepting the NRA arguments would be “elevating form over substance,” and that it was a “big lift” to tell James she could not sue in state court.

“It would be inappropriate in these circumstances to find that the attorney general cannot pursue her claims in state court just because one of the defendants would prefer to proceed in federal court,” Cohen said.

The NRA has said it was “dumping” New York to escape its “toxic political environment.”

It accused James, a Democrat, of suing for political gain and because she dislikes what the group stands for.

Bankruptcy filings normally halt existing litigation, but the attorney general believes her lawsuit deserves an exemption because she is enforcing her “police and regulatory power.”

James Sheehan, a lawyer for James, told the judge a trial could occur early next year.

The case is New York v. National Rifle Association et al, New York State Supreme Court, New York County, No. 451625-2020.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

U.S. appeals court blocks NY governor’s limits on religious gatherings

By Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The federal appeals court in Manhattan on Monday blocked New York state restrictions on the size of religious gatherings put in place to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

In a 3-0 decision, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, the Orthodox Jewish group Agudath Israel of America and two synagogues in enjoining New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Oct. 6 attendance caps at “houses of worship.”

The governor limited attendance to the lesser of 10 people or 25% capacity in “red” zones where the coronavirus risk was highest, and 25 people or 33% capacity in slightly less risky “orange” zones, even in buildings that seat hundreds.

Circuit Judge Michael Park said the plaintiffs established irreparable harm by showing the restrictions impaired their free exercise of religion.

He also said “no public interest is served by maintaining an unconstitutional policy when constitutional alternatives are available to achieve the same goal.”

Cuomo’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Monday’s decision followed the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling on Nov. 25 against enforcing the caps.

The majority, comprising most of the court’s conservative wing, said the restrictions “strike at the very heart of the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious liberty,” and that “even in a pandemic, the Constitution cannot be put away and forgotten.”

Cuomo has said that ruling had no practical effect because some restrictions were lifted as COVID-19 flare-ups eased.

The appeals court returned Agudath Israel’s case to a Brooklyn federal judge to decide, under a “strict scrutiny” standard, whether the 25% and 33% limits were constitutional.

Avi Schick, a lawyer for Agudath Israel, said Monday’s decision “will be felt way beyond the COVID context. It is a clear statement … that government can’t disfavor religious conduct merely because it sees no value in religious practice.”

Randy Mastro, the diocese’s lawyer, said the diocese was “gratified,” and will welcome parishioners to mass “under strict protocols” that keep them safe.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Aurora Ellis)

Judge exempts journalists, legal observers from Portland protest dispersal orders

By Kanishka Singh

(Reuters) – A U.S. judge granted a preliminary injunction on Thursday against federal officers, exempting journalists and legal observers from orders to disperse after the officers declare riots at Portland protests.

The 61-page order prohibited federal officers from seizing any “photographic equipment, audio- or video recording equipment, or press passes” from reporters and legal observers.

A lawyer from the U.S. Justice Department had argued that the press does not hold any special right when police declare an unlawful assembly or riot and order crowds to break up.

“If military and law enforcement personnel can engage around the world without attacking journalists, the federal defendants can respect plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights in Portland,” U.S. District Judge Michael Simon said in the order filed in the United States District Court for Oregon.

Protests against racism and police brutality have swept the United States since the death on May 25 of George Floyd, a 46-year-old African-American man, after a white police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

The protests, including those in Portland, have occasionally erupted in arson and violence, and federal officers sent into the northwestern city have repeatedly clashed with crowds targeting its federal courthouse.

Portland Police had declared a riot for a second successive night on Wednesday and said they had fired crowd control munitions and tear gas to break up a gathering of about 200 people who threw rocks, lit fires and vandalized a U.S. immigration agency building.

Thursday’s order came in a class-action lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Foundation of Oregon, which called it “a crucial victory” for civil liberties and press freedom.

Separately on Thursday, Portland Police issued a timeline of protests, showcasing they had declared riots 17 times between May 29 and Aug. 19.

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

NRA sues Los Angeles over law requiring that contractors reveal ties to gun group

An attendee speaks to representatives of the National Rifle Association (NRA) at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) annual meeting at National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland

(Reuters) – The National Rifle Association sued Los Angeles on Wednesday over a new law requiring that contractors seeking to do business in the second most-populous U.S. city must disclose their ties to the gun rights group.

The NRA said the law violates its First Amendment free speech and association rights and its equal protection rights under the U.S. Constitution, according to its complaint filed in Los Angeles federal court.

Mayor Eric Garcetti was also named as a defendant.

The Los Angeles City Attorney’s office and Garcetti’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The lawsuit challenges an ordinance passed on Feb. 12 by the Los Angeles City Council that requires companies that want city contracts to disclose NRA contracts or sponsorships.

That ordinance was passed in the wake of a series of recent mass shootings in the United States.

The NRA said Los Angeles adopted the ordinance “intending to silence NRA’s voice, as well as the voices of all those who dare oppose the city’s broad gun-control agenda.”

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

Woman pepper-sprayed at UC Berkeley protest sues university, police

A worker surveys the damage to a vandalized Starbucks after a student protest turned violent at UC Berkeley during a demonstration over right-wing speaker Milo Yiannopoulos, who was forced to cancel his talk, in Berkeley, California.

By Gina Cherelus

(Reuters) – A woman who says she was pepper-sprayed by protesters demonstrating against a planned appearance by a right-wing speaker in February has sued the University of California at Berkeley for infringing on her First Amendment free speech rights.

Kiara Robles of Oakland, California is suing 18 individuals and organizations including officials at the University of California, UC Berkeley’s police department, Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin, the Berkeley Police Department, U.S. Representative Nancy Pelosi and investor George Soros.

“Robles was attacked with extremely painful pepper spray and bear mace by masked assailants amongst the protesters because she chose to exercise her right to freedom of speech and show support for the planned speaker, Milo Yiannopoulous,” according to the lawsuit.

The suit was filed on Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California by Larry Klayman, a conservative activist and one of Robles’ attorneys.

In an emailed statement on Tuesday, Dan Mogulof, a spokesman for the University of California at Berkeley, defended the actions of campus administrators and police, and said the university would vigorously fight the suit.

A spokesman for the Berkeley mayor’s office, Stefan Elgstrand, said the office has no comment on pending litigation.

According to the lawsuit, Robles went to UC Berkeley to hear Yiannopoulous’ speech. But violence erupted after more than 1,500 protesters gathered on the campus, forcing the former Breitbart News editor to cancel his appearance at the liberal-leaning institution.

According to the lawsuit, the University of California, Berkeley unconstitutionally limited the First Amendment rights of its students and invitees at the event “who do not subscribe to the radical, left-wing philosophies sanctioned by defendants.”

Representative for the University of California’s office of the president and the city of Berkeley Police Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

A statement from Pelosi was not immediately available, according to a spokeswoman from her office, Caroline Behringer.

George Soros could not immediately be reached.

Robles is demanding a trial by jury and is seeking more than $20,000,000 in damages and other relief, the lawsuit said.

(Reporting by Gina Cherelus in New York; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Dan Grebler)

Protesters force UC Berkeley to cancel far-right speaker’s speech

vandalized bankf of america at scene of "protest"

(Reuters) – Hundreds of protesters at the University of California at Berkeley on Wednesday smashed windows, set fires and clashed with police as they forced a right-wing speaker to cancel his appearance at the liberal-leaning institution.

Two hours before far-right Breitbart News editor Milo Yiannopoulos was to give a speech at the student union, protesters tossed metal barricades and rocks through the building’s windows and set a light generator on fire near the entrance, footage from news outlets showed.

Police ordered protesters to disperse as the school put the campus on lockdown. Protesters also tossed bricks and fireworks at police in riot gear who fired rubber pellets back at the crowd, according to SFGate.com, a news outlet in San Francisco.

“We shut down the event. It was great. Mission accomplished,” a protester told CNN.

Some 150 “masked agitators” were responsible for the violence during the otherwise largely peaceful protest of about 1,500 people, the university said in a statement, noting that the school “is proud of its history and legacy as home of the Free Speech Movement” in the 1960s.

President Donald Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, previously headed Breitbart News and CNN reported that many of the protesters voiced opposition to the Republican president.

Many of Trump’s executive orders and proposed policies, including his suspension of the U.S. refugee program and temporary ban on travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries, have been met by largely peaceful protests that have drawn tens of thousands of people across the United States.

One protester at Berkeley held a sign that said “No Safe Space for Racists” while other protesters danced to hip hop music, footage from a Facebook Live feed showed.

Protesters later marched along streets near the campus where some smashed storefront windows and car windshields while clashing with police, the feed showed.

Yiannopoulos, whose account on Twitter was suspended last year after he was accused of participating in the online harassment of an African-American actress, criticized “the Left”, saying in a statement it was “absolutely terrified of free speech and will do literally anything to shut it down.”

He also said on Fox News that he was evacuated by police after protesters began throwing rocks and other objects at the building.

“Obviously it’s a liberal campus so they hate any libertarians or conservatives who dare to express an opinion on their campuses,” he said. “They particularly don’t like me.”

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles, Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Nick Macfie; Editing by Sandra Maler and Nick Macfie)