BERKELEY (CBS/AP/BCN) — Right-wing commentator Milo Yiannopoulos says he plans to hold a rally at the University of California, Berkeley after a student group who planned a week of events with him pulled out.
His announcement Saturday added to the confusing back-and-forth about the “Free Speech Week” event at the UC Berkeley campus.
The Berkeley Patriot student organization Saturday told university officials that all the events scheduled for the following week were canceled, Dan Mogulof, a university spokesman, said in a statement.
“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.
Yiannopoulos said in a live-streamed presentation on Facebook Saturday that he won’t be deterred and will host an event “come hell or high water.”
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 appear Sunday at a noon rally at Sproul Plaza.
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.
Some headline speakers, including Ann Coulter, have backed away from the event or said their names were listed without their knowledge.
“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.
Yiannopoulos’ attempt to speak at Berkeley in February was shut down by masked anarchists who rioted on campus.
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