BERKELEY (CBS/AP/BCN) — Conservative commentator Ann Coulter on Friday said she is not coming to “Free Speech Week” at the University of California in Berkeley amid growing signs the event could fizzle.
The university says it is planning tight security around the event organized by student group the Berkeley Patriot and right-wing firebrand Milo Yiannopoulos and scheduled to start Sunday.
- ‘Thug’ Posters Fuel Tensions Ahead Of UC Berkeley ‘Free Speech Week’
- UC Berkeley Prepares To Host Ultra-Conservative ‘Free Speech Week’
- UC Berkeley Group Ignores Deadlines, But Insists On Hosting Far-Right Speakers
Coulter told The Associated Press by email Friday that Yiannopoulos’ team was in touch about speaking, but she heard the school administration was “dead set on blocking” the event so she decided not to bother.
UC Berkeley spokesperson Dan Mogulof issued a statement Friday morning regarding reports that the Berkeley Patriot has cancelled the events, indicating that officials had not received any confirmation from the student group.
“However, the campus has not heard directly from the students and must, for the time being, proceed with plans to provide for the safety and security of the campus community and any speakers who may still be planing to come to Berkeley,” the statement read.
The statement said the UC Berkeley police department would continue working in concert “with an unprecedented number of allied law enforcement agencies” and continue to prepare “to provide needed security for these events.”
The statement concluded with a reiteration that the university was committed “to the First Amendment and Free Speech” and was “in the process of spending close to a million dollars on these security arrangements” to ensure that the events are safe.
Chanel Korby, a spokeswoman for Milo Inc., a group started by Yiannopoulos, said in an email message “At present the event is set to continue no matter what and UC Berkeley has been paid $65,000 so far in security deposits.”
Korby said Yiannopoulos will hold a press briefing about the free speech week, which has been scheduled to begin on Sunday and run through Wednesday, at 2 p.m. on Saturday at an undisclosed location “in the Bay Area.”
She said the location will be released to confirmed members of the news media.
Korby said Yiannopoulos “will use his eve of battle conference to lay out his plan for the Berkeley Free Speech Week event, which is scheduled to begin on Sunday on the UC Berkeley campus.”
Korby said, “He will be accompanied by members of the Berkeley Patriot, the student group sponsoring the event, and by scheduled speakers, including Pamela Geller and Mike Cernovich.”
She said Yiannopoulos “is expected to speak based on prepared remarks as well as answer questions, and other Free Speech Week speakers will participate as well as they prepare to head for Berkeley the next day (Sunday).”
On the other side, the group BAMN — which stands for ‘By Any Means Necessary — opposes the event and is calling for people to show up and shut down Free Speech Week. While they said they aren’t advocating violence outright, their name and their history indicates it’s not out of the question.
Despite the reports of the events being cancelled, activist and Berkeley middle school teacher Yvette Felarca held a press conference early Friday evening on the steps of Sproul Hall on the UC Berkeley campus.
“To the alt-right or the white supremacists or any of Trumps most dangerous fascist supporters, we have to have the whole community coming out to shut them down and to defend the well-being and the safety of this community,” said Felarca.
Late Thursday night, a group put up posters with a variety of messages, among them “Feminists Stop Being Fat Let Milo Speak,” “F*** Your Commie Trash,” and “Your City Is Run By Thugs In Black Masks.”
Despite the confusion over a possible cancellation, campus officials told KPIX 5 Friday afternoon they are moving forward with safety measures according to plan, regardless of the cost.
“We understand that’s very uncertain and unclear right now, but we can’t afford to play games when it comes to the safety of the campus community,” said Mogulof.
Students and faculty at UC Berkeley say they’re getting tired of the campus being a political flashpoint.
Many students described the disruptions as an annoyance and say they try to stay away from protests due to fears about violence.
TM and © Copyright 2017 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.