Milo Yiannopoulos' Free Speech Week At UC Berkeley Is In Complete Disarray

Lucas Jackson / Reuters

Milo Yiannopoulos has yet another mess on his hands.

His “Free Speech Week” featuring a series of right wing speakers at the University of California, Berkeley, appears to be in total disarray just days before it is scheduled to begin on Sunday.

Multiple high-profile speakers have either dropped out or said they were never asked to appear in the first place. Others said they feared for their safety given the history of violent counter-protesting, fueling reports that the event will be canceled, something Yiannopoulos flatly denied Friday.

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

Ann Coulter (at left) speaks on at panel at Politicon in Pasadena, California, on July 29, 2017.

Joshua Blanchard

Steve Bannon, Trump's former head strategist, was listed on the initial lineup of speakers, but he has never publicly acknowledged the event, which starts Sunday, 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, instead planning 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.

UC Berkeley did not respond to repeated requests for comment Friday, but campus spokesman Dan Mogulof told the Los Angeles Times that the university was planning as if the event would proceed, though only four speakers had confirmed their appearances with the university.

“We cannot play any games or take any chances, we are proceeding on the assumption that all of the speakers who are supposedly coming are in fact coming,” Mogulof told the newspaper, adding that the university had budgeted more than $1 million to provide security.

Because the organizers missed the deadlines to book indoor venues, whatever form the Free Speech Week even does take will have to take place mostly Sproul Plaza, which has seen its share of violent counter-protesting to planned appearances by Yiannopoulos and other right wingers.

Ben Margot / AP

When asked Friday if the event was canceled, Yiannopoulos told BuzzFeed News via email, “No. Absolutely not.” Whitty of the Patriot said the same.

Whitty did not have a clear event schedule in mind and Yiannopoulos would not elaborate. Instead, they said they would hold a press conference on Saturday, and Yiannopoulos called for a Sunday march through UC Berkeley on Instagram.

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 alt-right favor in February after footage surfaced of the now-former Breitbart editor saying sexual relationships between teenagers 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.

His conservative-themed Free Speech Week has since made national news, thrusting him back into the spotlight.

But 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.”

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

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.”

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.

Twitter/Mike Cernovich

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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