Organizers call off far-right festival at UC Berkeley; march planned on campus on Sunday Top News

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Organizers call off far-right festival at UC Berkeley; march planned on campus on Sunday Top News

Organizers of a far-right festival planned for the UC Berkeley campus have informed school officials that all speaking events scheduled for the coming week have been canceled, the university said Saturday.

Representatives of the student group Berkeley Patriot informed the school that Free Speech Week, which was scheduled to kick off Sunday, will not take place, Dan Mogulof, a campus spokesman, said in a statement. There was no reason given for the cancellation.

“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,” Mogulof said.

Some speakers scheduled to appear at the event had announced they would not attend.

Mogulof said a news conference would be held Saturday afternoon.

Milo Yiannopoulos, the right-wing writer who has struggled to help organize the festival at Berkeley, was set to hold his own news conference on Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay at 2 p.m. But the event space — Home — canceled, citing it as “high risk,” according to an employee who asked not to be named.

Then an effort to hold a news conference at a space in Walnut Creek fell through as well, according to Berkeley Patriot President Mike Wright.

So, flanked by Mike Cernovich and Pamela Gellar, Yiannopoulos took to Facebook Live to decry the cancellation of next week’s speakers series and announce a rally at the Mario Savio Steps on Sproul Plaza on Sunday at noon.

“We are unable to host an official UC Berkeley speaking event,” Yiannopoulos said. “So we’re going to host an unofficial one.”

Cernovich and Gellar will join Yiannopoulos and a slate of speakers that includes Canadian far-right personality Lauren Southern, Los Angeles street artist SABO, conservative author Lisa De Pasquale, and former UC Irvine College Republicans President Ariana Rowlands.

Yiannopoulos read a letter from Wright who said that members of his group felt threatened and worried about being expelled if they went on with Free Speech Week.

Even though the student group had missed a number of deadlines to reserve venues on campus, Yiannopoulos said “the blame for this event’s new mutated form lies squarely with UC Berkeley.”

“These students have been bullied, cajoled and manipulated by UC Berkeley,” he said.

Yiannopoulos, who was forced to resign from the conservative Breitbart News website after making comments that appeared to condone pedophilia, also addressed media reports and speculation that his organization never intended to go through with the week’s activities.

Lucian Wintrich, a writer for the Gateway Pundit website, which regularly publishes outlandish stories about politics, was supposed to speak at the event. But earlier this week he pulled out, telling the Los Angeles Times that he didn’t want college students to “waste their money” coming to the event.

In a Saturday email to a UC Berkeley administrator, obtained by The Times, Wintrich said that Yiannopoulos had known for some time he was going to cancel the event.

“It was known that they didn’t intend to actually go through with it last week, and completely decided on Wednesday,” Wintrich wrote.

Yiannopoulos said this was not true, but he did appear to take some responsibility for the now-canceled event’s chaotic and disorganized rollout.

“I understand there were some hiccups with speakers, which I take personal responsibility for. Although it was an error of my staff, it’s down to me.”

Earlier, Yiannopoulos’ organization, Milo Inc., posted this message:

“There will be a March for Free Speech through UC Berkeley on Sunday at noon with me and other Free Speech Week speakers,” Yiannopoulos said. “We will march through Sproul Plaza, where the Free Speech Movement began and where we will begin to lead a new one…If we do not protect free speech for those with whom we disagree, there is no point in protecting it at all.”

Meanwhile, a previously scheduled counter-demonstration in Berkeley on Saturday afternoon went forward as planned with about 500 participants. That mostly subdued event, dubbed “No Hate in the Bay: March Against White Supremacy,” was sponsored by an array of groups including labor unions and human rights organizations.

The crowd meandered around the Oakland/Berkeley border chanting against Nazis.

Cat Brooks, an organIzer with the Anti Police-Terror Project in the Bay Area who helped lead the march Saturday, said Berkeley had become “a crown jewel” for right-wing activists working to build their ranks.

“If I was an organizer on their side and I was interested in utilizing propaganda to build up my movement, It makes sense to come to Berkeley,” she said.

She called Yiannapoulos a “showman” and said she wasn’t surprised his event had fallen apart.

“They know that here is not the place to come,” she said. “You will not win that fight here. You will not win that fight in the Bay Area.”

Yiannopoulos insisted that a bevy of high-profile speakers would be attending the Berkeley series, but one of the most controversial names on the list — conservative commentator Ann Coulter — told the Times on Friday that she was “never” coming. Coulter had been scheduled to speak on campus earlier this year, but that engagement was scrapped at the last minute.

“I never planned to speak [at Free Speech Week],” she said in an email Friday. “My speakers bureau never booked me to speak at Berkeley. No contract for me to speak existed.”

Former White House strategist Stephen K. Bannon was another unconfirmed speaker. He didn’t respond to repeated requests for comment.

Yiannopoulos, conservative author David Horowitz, activist Lisa De Pasquale and Breitbart News contributor Ariana Rowlands were among the only four confirmed speakers for Free Speech Week, according to the university.

Yiannopoulos has complained to reporters that the university had tried to sabotage plans for Free Speech Week by making it difficult for organizers to make logistical arrangements and to meet certain deadlines.

But Mogulof, the UC Berkeley spokesman, said such claims were “without basis in fact.” He also said the university was prepared to spend “in excess of $1 million in order make these events safe.”

“The university was prepared to do whatever was necessary to support the 1st Amendment rights of the student organization,” Mogulof said in his statement. “We want to send the strongest possible message that we will continue to work constructively with campus organizations to host their speakers on our campus.”

UC Berkeley has incurred at least $1.4 million in security costs since February, when Yiannopoulos’ last appearance sparked violent protests. The campus spent $200,000 on security for that event, $600,000 for Coulter, whose event ultimately was canceled, and an estimated $600,000 for the talk last week by conservative writer Ben Shapiro, according to the university.

Officials shut down a large portion of Berkeley’s campus as well as three city blocks to prevent the kind of rioting that happened when Yiannopoulos’ February event was canceled. The protests outside Shapiro’s talk were relatively subdued with no widespread violence and nine arrests.

Berkeley has become a favorite spot for far-right activists to speak out, knowing they can get attention and push emotional buttons in what is essentially enemy territory.

Even as Free Speech Week at the university buckled under its own weight, Yiannopoulos took the time during this Facebook Live stream on Saturday to announce four upcoming speaking dates for his planned seven-month Troll Academy tour across the U.S.

Three of them are in California, on Oct. 25 at CSU Bakersfield, Oct. 29 at San Diego State University and Oct. 31 at CSU Fullerton.

benjamin.oreskes@latimes.com

javier.panzar@latimes.com


UPDATES:

2:20 p.m.: This article has been updated with comments from counter-demonstrators.

1:40 p.m.: This article has been updated with additional comments from Milo Yiannopoulos.

1 p.m.: This article was updated with a notice posted on Milo Inc. that a free speech march would be held at UC Berkeley on Sunday.

11:45 a.m.: This article was updated with additional comments from Lucian Wintrich, one of the scheduled speakers.

10:50 a.m.: This article was updated with new comments from UC Berkeley’s spokesman.

This article was originally published at 10:20 a.m.

Organizers call off far-right festival at UC Berkeley; march planned on campus on Sunday Top News

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Organizers call off far-right festival at UC Berkeley; march planned on campus on Sunday Top News

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