It's Off, But Milo SAYS He's On for Noon on Sunday

Janis Mara (BCN)
Saturday September 23, 2017 - 07:52:00 PM

While the so-called "Free Speech Week" at the University of California at Berkeley has been canceled by its student organizers, far-right speakers said they would hold forth at Sproul Plaza tomorrow. 

The Berkeley Patriot student organization this morning told university officials that all the events scheduled for the following week are canceled, Dan Mogulof, a university spokesman, said in a statement. 

However, a far-right media personality who was to have spoken at "Free Speech Week" said in a live-streamed presentation on Facebook today that he and two others would speak at Sproul Plaza Sunday at noon. 

Milo Yiannopoulos, a self-described "troll" - widely defined as someone who deliberately sows discord online - said he and two other far-right personalities, Mike Cernovich and Pamela Geller, would speak Sunday. 

Geller also appeared in the livestream, promoting a book she wrote that was published by Yiannopoulos. Cernovich also spoke briefly. 

In response to the cancellation of "Free Speech Week," Mogulof said, "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." 

The university was in the process of spending more than $1 million to make the proposed events safe, the spokesman said. 

"News of the voluntary cancellation of 'Free Speech Week' represents no setback for free speech," said Suzanne Nossel, executive director of PEN American Center, an organization founded in 1922 to defend free expression and advance literature. 

"From the start, the groups behind this planned conclave made clear their intent to showcase only a particular set of views, aimed to provoke outrage and bait those who might call for their expression to be shut down," Nossel said. 

"In a climate where confrontations and violence had previously broken out, Berkeley officials were dogged in making plans and taking precautions to enable the events to go forward," Nossel said. 

When Yiannopoulos last was scheduled to speak at UC Berkeley in February, protests caused more than $100,000 in damage to the campus, and more than a dozen businesses were vandalized in the city's downtown area, according to university officials. 

"Repeated changes to the program and lack of confirmation of events called the organizers' seriousness into question," Nossel said. 

The student organization made preliminary reservations for a number of venues, but missed three deadlines to complete contracts and confirm reservations, Mogulof said. The Berkeley Patriot group did have a confirmed reservation for Anna Head Hall, but canceled that reservation Tuesday, he said. 

On Friday, a spokeswoman for Yiannopoulos said "Free Speech Week" would still take place despite media reports that it had been canceled. 

This morning, student organizers told UC Berkeley officials that the event was canceled. 

Similar on-off announcements occurred with regard to a Patriot Prayer right-wing event that had been scheduled for San Francisco's Crissy Field Aug. 26. Organizers abruptly cancelled the rally the day before it was to happen, instead scheduling an unpermitted event in Alamo Square Park. That event was also cancelled at the last minute. 

"Ben Shapiro's recent appearance at Berkeley was hopeful evidence that reasoned dialogue between sharply opposing views is possible, but it demands that the parties involve in good faith, with the intent of exchanging ideas rather than barbs in the media or physical blows," Nossel said. 

Shapiro spoke Sept. 14 at Zellerbach Playhouse in an event titled "Say No to Campus Thuggery." The event was being put on by the Berkeley College Republicans and Young America's Foundation. 

Nine people were arrested for offenses including public intoxication. 

There were no reports of injuries or property damage connected with the event, according to police.  

Calls and email to representatives of Berkeley Patriot were not returned. 


CONTACT: Dan Mogulof, Asst. Vice Chancellor, Office of Communications and Public Affairs, dmogulof@berkeley.edu 


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