UC Berkeley’s ‘Free Speech Week’ Canceled by Student Group
Despite the event’s cancellation, conservative media personality Milo Yiannopoulos made an appearance at the university on Sunday.
The UC Berkeley student group slated to host ‘Free Speech Week’ announced the cancellation of the event the day before it was scheduled to kick off.
“The Berkeley Patriot has withdrawn as organizer of Free Speech Week due to retaliatory efforts by UC Berkeley against its members,” reads the event website.
The event was to be hosted by former Breitbart columnist Milo Yiannopoulos.
Other headliners scheduled to speak aside from Yiannopoulos included right-wing writer Mike Cernovich, president of American Freedom Defense Initiative Pamela Geller and conservative writer David Horowitz.
The student group had previously announced that former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon was to speak at the event, although its website no longer touts Bannon’s name.
Statements from UC Berkeley Officials, Student Group
“It is extremely unfortunate that this announcement was made at the last minute, even as the University was in the process of spending significant sums of money and preparing for substantial disruption of campus life in order to provide the needed security for these events,” Assistant Vice Chancellor Dan Mogulof wrote in a statement.
The group’s attorney, Marguerite Melo, says the group chose to cancel because they could not ensure the safety of its speakers.
“They made the decision on the side of safety and having their free speech rights stifled,” says Melo.
Berkeley Patriot members say UC Berkeley administrators threatened to investigate the group for hate speech violations after they filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice.
The complaint to the DOJ claimed the university had engaged in First Amendment violations, including imposing “arbitrary and irrational bureaucratic hurdles on student groups which seek to exercise their First Amendment rights by holding public debates.”
“Baseless and unconstitutional charges of ‘hate speech’ and other odious campus rules violations have been leveled against our members, coupled with threats to conduct ‘investigations,'” Berkeley Patriot member Mike Wright wrote in a statement.
UC Berkeley has maintained that the student group missed important deadlines for hosting an event on campus and did not confirm locations with the university, which the group denies.
Yiannopoulos Visits Campus Despite Cancellation
Following the cancellation of the event, Yiannopoulos held a news conference alongisde Cernovich and Geller. Yiannopoulos says he was “blindsided” by the group’s announcement and placed blame on UC Berkeley administration. He vowed to make an appearance in public space on campus “come hell or high water”.
Yiannopoulos spoke briefly at the school’s Sproul Plaza on Sunday where he was accompanied by approximately 100 supporters, according to USA Today.
Sproul Plaza was the site of the historic Free Speech Movement protests of the 1960’s which made the university a symbol of First Amendment rights.
Counterprotestors also gathered in the area but were separated from supporters by police.
Yiannopoulos says he accomplished his mission in his short visit.
“The purpose of today was to show up on campus no matter what and to let them know we’ll be back as many times as it will take.”
Off-campus protests also occurred over the weekend, leading to one man’s arrest for carrying a banned weapon and wearing a mask during the commission of a crime, according to Berkeley police.
Since last February, when another appearance from Yiannopoulos was canceled following violent protests, UC Berkeley says it has incurred at least $1.4 million in security costs and damages.
The school also says it spent approximately $600,000 for security measures when conservative writer Ben Shapiro spoke on campus earlier this month.