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Protesters haven’t made UC Berkeley the most hospitable place for conservatives lately, so it should make for a raucous few days when Steve Bannon, Milo Yiannopoulos and Ann Coulter show up there later this month for something called Free Speech Week.
That is, if the event is allowed to take place.
As of now, it’s iffy, as the university says several requirements have yet to be met, while Yiannopoulos claims Berkeley is engaging in a disinformation campaign to derail his brainchild.
“UC Berkeley is the craziest and most mendacious college administration I have ever dealt with, which has only made me more determined that we must succeed,” Yiannopoulos tells The Hollywood Reporter.
While Yiannopoulos has been promoting Free Speech Week for several months, university spokesperson Dan Mogulof tells THR that the group sponsoring the event, the Berkeley Patriot, are seven weeks behind in some of their paperwork.
The event, set for Sept. 24-27, is supposed to take place primarily at Zellerbach Hall, which is technically only an auxiliary venue at the campus, so more stringent rules apply, including the payment of a fee that will not be refunded should cops shut down the proceedings if rioting should occur, as was the case when Yiannopoulos attempted to speak at Berkeley in February.
Plus, Mogulof says the group hasn’t yet bought insurance for the event and, of the 20 or so speakers invited, only a handful have notified university police that they’ll be there, as is required, especially if they plan to bring private security with them.
Yiannopoulos, Bannon and Coulter are all supposed to appear on the fourth day, while speakers scheduled on other days include Pamela Geller, David Horowitz, Monica Crowley, Mike Cernovich and more. All are considered controversial, and many are primary targets of progressive groups like Media Matters for America and Southern Poverty Law Center because they allegedly engage in dangerous “hate speech.”
Mogulof, though, says one advertised guest, Charles Murray, announced he won’t be attending, and about three others will not, either.
Coulter said only that Yiannopoulos told her the event and her appearance is confirmed, while Bannon, the former chief strategist for President Donald Trump who runs Breitbart News, was unavailable for comment.
Mogulof says the college spent $600,000 for security when conservative author Ben Shapiro spoke there on Thursday, “and we’re ready to spend that sort of money again — even more” for Free Speech Week.
He says Berkeley Patriot, a new group with about a dozen members, is ignoring rules that roughly 1,000 other registered groups are required to follow when they host events.
“We showed a lot of flexibility. This is standard procedure. These things were explained to them in detail,” he says. “We really hope they pull it together.”
Berkeley Patriot did not respond to a request for comment.
The university’s position is nonsense, says Yiannopoulos, citing similar claims of broken rules that caused Coulter’s hosts to cancel her appearance in April.
“Berkeley’s playbook isn’t exactly new. We fully expected them to spread rumors about a cancellation, but the tactic won’t work in a year that has seen Americans become adept at spotting fake news,” says Yiannopoulos. “They don’t believe their students can handle Coulter, Bannon and I appearing on campus. We think Berkeley students are more grown up than their own school does.”
Zellerbach Hall has 2,000 seats, but Mogulof says Berkeley Patriot can save money and be made to jump through fewer hoops if it settles for a smaller venue on campus, many of which can be had for free, but time is running short to book one or more of those.
If push comes to shove, they can more easily reserve outdoor space, though that could make security more challenging, says Mogulof: “They say Steve Bannon is coming. Does he really want to stand in the middle of a plaza?”
Some professors, meanwhile, are threatening a boycott of classes should Bannon be allowed to speak at Berkeley, a development Yiannopoulos finds “funny.”
“Once upon a time, professors understood that listening to free speech a student doesn’t agree with is vital for the development of their mind as an educated, thinking individual,” he says. “That was replaced long ago with progressive dogma and authoritarian ideology.”
On Monday, Yiannopoulos showed THR a receipt for $65,758.76, which he says he paid Berkeley to secure his chosen venue. He also published a video about Free Speech Week, which includes images of rioting from the last time he attempted to speak at Berkeley.
Updated Monday Sep. 18, 2017 with the below video and with payment information supplied by Yiannopoulos.
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