UC Berkeley: Organizers Fail to Meet Deadlines for 'Free Speech Week'
Milo Yiannopoulos, a conservative columnist and internet personality, holds a press conference down the street from the Pulse Nightclub on June 15, 2016, in Orlando, Florida. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
UC Berkeley administrators say a right-wing campus group has not complied with posted deadlines and protocols for a large gathering of conservatives scheduled for the coming weeks.
The group, called Berkeley Patriot, had been promoting a "Free Speech Week" event, but failed to provide evidence that speakers listed on schedules are actually planning to attend, according to the university.
The result is that Berkeley Patriot will not be able to use two large indoor venues, Zellerbach Auditorium or Wheeler Auditorium.
Right-wing authors Milo Yiannopoulos and Ann Coulter, as well as former White House strategist Steve Bannon, were the most notable names advertised, but others on the list publicly stated they had not been contacted about appearing.
Charles Murray, who had been named on the speakers list, told the Chronicle of Higher Education that he was never contacted about the event and said, "I would never under any circumstances appear at an event that included Milo Yiannopoulos."
A Berkeley Patriot member said the listing of Murray was a "mess up."
"It made it look like we don't have our shit together," Berkeley Patriot News Editor Pranav Jandhyala told KQED.
UC Berkeley spokesperson Dan Mogulof told KQED that Berkeley Patriot did not meet a deadline to pay the university for use of the larger theater spaces they requested.
"The university cannot defend spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to provide security arrangements for events based on a press release and inconsistent schedules," Mogulof wrote in a statement. "The campus will require Berkeley Patriot to confirm the details of its 10 remaining proposed events in the coming days."
"To be clear, Berkeley Patriot may still continue with planning its 'Free Speech Week' if it's able to confirm its speakers, confirm its schedules, and comply with UCPD's security requirements," Mogulof added.
Almost as soon as the university statement was released, Yiannopoulos told the Los Angeles Times that Mogulof’s claims were "a total lie" and that the notice was an "attempt to force cancellation with impossible demands at the last minute."
Berkeley Patriot's Jandhyala said that the university was telling "half-truths and lies," and that the $70,000 needed to secure use of the facilities is already in the university's bank account. He also accused the university of setting impossible hurdles for a small campus organization to overcome in a short amount of time.
Jandhyala refused to disclose who provided the group the money so the university fees could be paid.
"I’d be happy to tell you, I just need to get confirmation," Jandhyala said. "I need to find the proper thing about what to say before I say who the funders are."
In a phone conversation with KQED, Mogulof noted that the group can still hold an event at smaller venues if they meet deadlines.
"Nobody’s shutting him down," Mogulof said. "We extended the deadline, we extended the deadline, and we extended the deadline. They didn’t meet the deadline."
Asked what would happen should Yiannapolous or others show up on campus without the proper approvals in place, Mogulof declined to answer.
"I'm not going to speculate on that," Mogulof told KQED. "We're trying to help them meet their deadlines. They have failed to do that."
On social media, right-wing commenters criticized UC Berkeley for releasing the news on a Saturday afternoon, suggesting the university is trying to bury the news that the group cannot use the space they requested, despite public statements from top administrators that the participants were welcome.
"They had a deadline at five o'clock [Friday]," Mogulof said. "Because they have legal counsel, everything we put out has to go through legal counsel. But it was a really clear deadline. They didn't make it."
Mogoluf noted that an event on Thursday featuring former Breitbart News editor Ben Shapiro went ahead as scheduled after police and officials were able to put appropriate security precautions in place. Those security measures are estimated to have cost $600,000.
Hard-right, anti-government and white nationalist groups have been targeting UC Berkeley and the surrounding city as a place of demonstration since the 2016 election. That includes the near-riot in the streets of Berkeley in February after an event featuring Yiannopoulos was canceled due to safety concerns.
Berkeley Patriot's Jandhyala said that there was "probably not any academic value" for the inclusion of Yiannapoulos and Ann Coulter, but that they were invited because earlier scheduled appearances at UC Berkeley were canceled because of violence and security concerns.
"There’s academic value for [former White House Chief Strategist] Bannon,” Jandhyala said. “But I don’t know if there is academic value in Milo and Coulter. And there doesn’t need to be. The reason Milo and Ann Coulter were invited is because they weren’t able to speak before. And I think that pains everybody.
"I disagree with them on most issues," he said. "I don’t think they are the best people to stand in for the conservative principles I believe in. That’s not the point. We support their right."