Lt. Gov. Newsom responds to Trump threat to cut funding following UC Berkeley protests

A man pulls a piece of metal out of a window as a flare burns inside a Wells Fargo Bank in Berkeley, on Feb. 1, 2017.
A man pulls a piece of metal out of a window as a flare burns inside a Wells Fargo Bank in Berkeley, on Feb. 1, 2017.
Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images

The fallout continues after demonstrations got out of control at UC Berkeley Wednesday night. Protesters set fires, smashed windows and hurled explosives at police — all because alt-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos visited the campus.

"It was unfortunate, frankly outrageous what [some protesters] did in terms of damaging property, and we can't condone that violence," California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom told KPCC. Newsom is also a member of the UC Board of Regents.

Criticism of the protests has been pouring in from Republicans all day — including President Donald Trump, who tweeted out a threat to cut UC Berkeley's federal funding.

Trump tweet

That's when Newsom got involved, tweeting back at the president.

Newsom tweet

"It's ... rather remarkable that we have a president of the United States who doesn't seek first to understand," Newsom said, "and somehow then threatens a university system with hundreds of millions of dollars of federal research grants because he alleges somehow we were repressing free speech, as opposed to a police force that was protecting people's safety."

Members of the UC staff who Newsom has spoken with are "disgusted by this," he said, describing it as the fourth or fifth action by the president they've had to respond to in just a week. He said that Trump was using his bully pulpit and Twitter to threaten both individuals and institutions.

"It's just a remarkably damaging thing, because it takes time and energy away from what matters, and [Trump] is completely disconnected from his complicity," Newsom said. "The fact that, in so many ways, shape or forms, he is fomenting so much of this, and then has the audacity, in that context, to condemn it at the same time is rather remarkable."

Other concerns for the UC system under Trump, according to Newsom, include the immigrant sanctuary status of campuses, as well as protecting students affected by the DACA and DREAM laws. Newsom credited Trump with following through on his campaign promises, saying that Trump needs to be taken both seriously and literally.

"He's backing up threats with executive orders," Newsom said, "and to the extent the executive orders could be backed up by the force of law and a seemingly complicit Congress, then I think we have to take them more seriously than, frankly, some of us wish we had to."

Newsom said that some of those at the protest in masks and black outfits are "professional agitators," adding, "there's no room for them."

"Some people are out there that want to create chaos, but this is not a time to create it. We've got someone who's doing enough of that in the White House," Newsom said. "I think what we want now is peace, and love, and understanding, and free speech that includes, yes, even repugnant individuals that border on hate, like this individual that was shut down yesterday."

Yiannopoulos previously spoke at Cal Poly, also part of the California state college system, earlier in the week and was met by peaceful protests, Newsom said. He has the right to speak and others have the right to condemn that speech, he added.

"What happened on the Berkeley campus is just not something I think Democrats, liberals, progressives can condone," Newsom said. "But just, at the same time, we need to call out our president for only furthering the flame."