'Free Speech Is at Risk on College Campuses': Undeterred Milo Yiannopoulos to Hold Rally at UC Berkeley - NBC Bay Area
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'Free Speech Is at Risk on College Campuses': Undeterred Milo Yiannopoulos to Hold Rally at UC Berkeley

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Free Speech Week has been canceled, but event headliner Milo Yiannopoulos said he still plans to speak on the UC Berkeley campus on Sunday. Anser Hassan reports.

    (Published Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017)

    Milo Yiannopoulos didn’t mince any words Saturday, saying he will speak at UC Berkeley "come hell or high water."

    The self-proclaimed troll is in the Bay Area to headline Free Speech Week, organized by student group Berkeley Patriot and slated to run Sept. 24 and Sept. 27. That plan went up in smoke Saturday when the student group withdrew its sponsorship of the four-day conservative political event.

    Yiannopoulos hosted a strongly-worded Facebook Live, flanked by political commentator Pamela Geller and Infowars host Mike Cernovich, saying he was "disappointed to have been completely blindsided" by Berkeley Patriot’s letter to the university’s Interim Vice Chancellor Stephen Sutton, detailing why the "mutated" Free Speech Week was being called off.

    "I do understand their fears and they are right on all counts when they say UC Berkeley is threatening their educational futures," he said. "But we cannot host an official university event without a student sponsor."

    Yiannopoulous blasted UC Berkeley for having "hypocritically named this academic year its ‘Year of Free Speech.’"

    "The administration has done everything in its power to crush its own students’ aspirations," he said. "UC Berkeley may have a deservedly poor reputation for free speech, and its students will graduate knowing less than when they came in as freshmen, but you have to give the school credit: they are masters of bureaucratic dirty dealing."

    Yiannopoulos lashed out at university officials, who he said "leaked" Free Speech Week's speaker list to "domestic terrorists" like Antifa.

    He also decried the narratives that the "Berkeley Patriots were hopelessly disorganized" and that he "somehow knowingly allowed fans to spend money travelling to Berkeley" despite suspicions that the event would be axed. 

    That said, Yiannopoulos said he was undeterred in his plan to express his First Amendment rights at the birthplace of the Free Speech Movement. The former Breitbart News editor’s attempt to speak at UC Berkeley in February came to a screeching halt when masked rioters began vandalizing property and lighting fires.

    In their capacity as citizens with the constitutional right to express their views, Yiannopoulos and other speakers will rally at Sproul Plaza at 12 p.m. Sunday at what has been dubbed a March for Free Speech. Over 140 people had expressed interest as of Saturday evening.

    "We will proceed no matter what, in whatever format we can, to realize the promise of Free Speech Week and send a message that conservatives will not be bowed by pressure from academics, the media or anyone else," Yiannopoulos said.

    Yiannopoulos said that the Berkeley Police Department knows of his plan and will be "out in full force," patrolling Sproul Plaza.

    Despite being miffed at Berkeley Patriot for pulling the plug on Free Speech Week, Yiannopoulos said he plans to endow the group with $10,000 – dubbed the Mario Savio Free Speech Fund. Berkeley "needs a strong, populous, free-speech loving conservative publication," he said.

    Yiannopoulos contined: "Free Speech is at risk on college campuses like never before in America’s history."

    Yiannopoulos also asked people who bought plane tickets, reserved hotel rooms or spent money in any other form to attend Free Speech Week to send him their receipts and confirmation. "We will take care of you," he said, alluding to a surprise at Sunday's rally. 

    "I deeply appreciate the efforts freedom-loving Americans have gone to in order to support this event and I am personally grateful to the fans who came in from all four corners of the earth," he wrote on Facebook. "I want you to know that I share your frustration with the administration and with the media, and that I will take care of you. Berkeley did this to you, but I’m going to fix it."

    Ann Coulter was meant to be the recipient of the Mario Savio Award for Free Speech, Yiannopolous said, admitting that he considered smashing it on the steps to Sproul Plaza "to declare that free speech at Berkeley is dead." Instead, he will safeguard it.

    "We will be back. I will get Ann Coulter here … I will get Uncle Steve back. I will get all of the people that you were looking forward to seeing here," Yiannopoulos promised.

    He then invited UC Berkeley’s Chancellor Carol Christ and University of California President Janet Napolitano to debate with him or any conservative of their choice on the issue of free speech.

    "It's high time that America had its big showdown free speech debate," Yiannopoulos said.

    Anyone hoping the demise of Free Speech Week means they won’t have to hear about him anymore will be disappointed, Yiannopoulos added, since he is launching an international Troll Academy tour.

    In California, he will speak at Cal State Bakersfield on Oct. 25, at San Diego State University on Oct. 29 and at Cal State Fullerton on Oct. 31.

    Some universities welcome speakers with controversial points of view, while some don’t, Yiannopoulos said, but "the vast majority do not possess the resources, clout, and pure malevolent evil of UC Berkeley."

    Yiannopoulos also revealed that he is launching a publishing house called "Dangerous Books," which will publish Geller’s next book, "Fatwa: Hunted in America."

    Returning to the issue at hand, Yiannopoulos said: "We will go through this madness, and we will do it again and again and again, until conservative speakers are given the same rights and privileges as their left-wing counterparts at every college in the country," he said on Facebook. "I will not rest until every student in America feels able to share their politics openly and proudly without fear of being marked down on essays, laughed at in the classroom or punished for inviting their speaker of choice."

    UC Berkeley issued a statement Saturday evening indicating that it was aware of Yiannopoulos' plans to speak and that the school was "putting measures in place to ensure the safety of the campus community." The university also advised people in attendance on Sunday to avoid violence.

    "Our campus will not tolerate acts of violence or the destruction of property, and the UCPD will dutifully investigate, arrest, and prosecute anyone who commits crimes on our campus," a statement from the university read.

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