Milo Yiannopoulos's "Free Speech Week" At UC Berkeley Has Been Canceled


Lucas Jackson / Reuters

Milo Yiannopoulos has yet another mess on his hands.

On Friday, his “Free Speech Week” featuring a series of right-wing speakers at the University of California, Berkeley, appeared to be in total disarray just days before it was scheduled to begin on Sunday.

On Saturday, the university said that the student group that had invited him, the Berkeley Patriot, had withdrawn from the event, and the university would not be going forward with preparations to secure the planned gathering.

Members of the Patriot did not immediately respond to request for comment, but multiple local news outlets reported that the student group had withdrawn from the event.

Yiannopoulos canceled a Saturday press conference in favor of a Facebook Live broadcast where he officially called off the event and said he would come to campus “with or without student and university help” on Sunday for a rally with a reduced lineup of far right speakers. He also apologized to the speakers for the confusion.

“Ann Coulter is entirely right to have bowed out,” he said.

Ann Coulter, a longtime conservative firebrand who recently turned against President Trump over his stance on undocumented immigrants, told Fox News on Friday that she would not attend the event.

Ann Coulter (left) speaks on a panel at Politicon in Pasadena, California, on July 29.

Joshua Blanchard

Steve Bannon, Trump's former head strategist, was listed on the initial lineup of speakers, but he had never publicly acknowledged the event and is instead scheduled to be in St. Louis.

In addition to confusion over the guest list, Yiannopoulos and student co-organizers with online publication the Berkeley Patriot failed to book high-capacity indoor venues on campus and instead planned for the events to be held outside, leaving university officials guessing along with everyone else if the event will actually happen.

Milo and Berkeley Patriot members maintain the university is to blame for the chaos by stonewalling them.

“We were unable to meet the deadlines because of bad communication with the university,” Ashton Whitty, a member of Berkeley Patriot, told BuzzFeed News. “They stopped responding to us and wouldn't meet with us in person.”

Yiannopoulos echoed her complaints in a Facebook video posted Sept. 19.

But UC Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof said the university had not heard anything about a cancellation from the organizers, so the administration is proceeding with security measures as though the event will go on as planned. The university has already incurred costs in the “low six figures” and could spend as much as $1 million dollars on the event, he added.

Mogulof also called the complaints against the university “utter nonsense.”

“We sent [the Berkeley Patriot] a contract in mid-July, the same contract that the Berkeley College Republicans signed for Ben Shapiro, and they dithered for five weeks and wanted special treatment and a subsidy,” Mogulof said. “Then Milo tells the Daily Cal that he'll spend $250,000, so why was money an issue?”

The organizers missed the deadlines to book large indoor venues and even rescinded a reservation for a smaller one, Anna Head Hall, according to Mogulof.

Ben Margot / AP

]Last month, another far-right provocateur also replaced his planned rally in San Francisco with a press conference amid widespread confusion over its fate.

Yiannopoulos fell from favor in the alt-right in February after footage surfaced of the now-former Breitbart editor saying sexual relationships between underage teens and adults could be consensual and beneficial. The same month, protesters at UC Berkeley rioted over a speech he had been invited to give on campus.

Lucian Wintrich, a writer for the conspiracy-theory-peddling pro-Trump site the Gateway Pundit, said in a video Friday that Yiannopoulos knew the event would be canceled as early as Wednesday. Wintrich, who said he will not attend the event, also accused Yiannopoulos' company of giving invited speakers “conflicting information.”

“Watching somebody cry wolf is highly frustrating,” Wintrich told BuzzFeed News. “It sets up a really bad situation for all of when it actually is the university’s fault.”

James Damore, the former Google software engineer known for writing an internal memo attacking gender diversity, said Wednesday he was booked without his knowledge and would not speak.

@JamesADamore / Twitter / Via Twitter: @JamesADamore

And Charles Murray, a controversial academic who has written that differences in IQ are racially based, told the Chronicle of Higher Education that he had also been listed as a speaker without his consent, and called Yiannopoulos a “despicable asshole.”

Yiannopoulos said in a his Saturday Facebook broadcast, “I only included Charles Murray on the speakers' list to troll him.”

Mike Cernovich, a “new right” blogger who has reported on the Trump administration, has given conflicting messages about his own attendance. He told the Atlantic he had a “family visit” planned during the event, but tweeted Friday morning that he would “see people Saturday and Sunday.”

He did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

@Cernovich / Twitter

Still, others have said they plan on being there. The right-wing street artist who goes by Sabo, tweeted his travel itinerary Friday saying “the show goes on.”

Meanwhile, the anti-Trump organization Refuse Fascism created Facebook events for protests running Saturday through Wednesday in Berkeley. Thousands have indicated they are “interested” in the Saturday event alone.

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