Sept. 24 (UPI) — Organizers of a proposed “Free Speech Week” demonstration at the University of California, Berkeley, that was put together by the outspoken conservative commentator Milo Yiannopoulos, said the event has been canceled.
The reason for the cancelation remains unclear, though the event, set to begin Sunday, was beset by organizational problems for weeks prior to Saturday’s announcement. Advertised speakers including Ann Coulter, Steve Bannon and other top conservative firebrands had declined to confirm their participation. The student group working with Yiannopoulos that sponsored the event, Berkeley Patriots, had failed to obtain demonstration permits or arrange travel accommodations for the speakers. Berkeley Patriots subsequently backed out, causing the cancelation.
Under Berkeley rules, campus events must be sponsored by a student group.
Despite the lack of a sponsor, Yiannopoulos said he will appear at the university on Sunday anyway to exercise his “right to free speech as a private citizen.”
Yiannopoulos pointed the finger at Berkeley’s administration, which he said worked to shut down the event.
“I understand there were some hiccups with speakers, for which I take full responsibility,” he said. “Although it was an error with my staff, it’s down to me. But the blame for this event’s mutated form lies squarely with UC-Berkeley.”
A spokesman for the university said the school had prepared to spend up to $1 million on additional security for anticipated protests by students.
“Claims that this is somehow the outcome desired by the campus are without basis in fact,” UC Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof said. “The university was prepared to do whatever was necessary to support the First Amendment rights of the student organization.”
The last time Yiannopoulos appeared at the school it sparked violent protests and cost $200,000 for additional security.
Yiannopoulos has been a lightning rod for criticism since his rise on social media. Twitter banned him after he encouraged his followers to harass the comedian Leslie Jones. Her website was subsequently hacked and nude photos of her were published online. He later resigned from his position as an editor at the conservative news site Breitbart in a firestorm after an interview surfaced where he spoke approvingly of sexual relationships between adult gay men and boys in their early teens.