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Far-right gathering in Berkeley called off

By BENJAMIN ORESKES and JAVIER PANZAR
Los Angeles Times

September 24. 2017 3:43AM


BERKELEY, Calif. - Organizers of a far-right event planned for the campus of the University of California, Berkeley, have told the school that all of the events scheduled for this week have been canceled, officials said Saturday.

Representatives of the student group Berkeley Patriot informed the university that Free Speech Week, which was scheduled to begin today, will not take place, Dan Mogulof, a campus spokesman, said in a statement. No reason was given for the cancellation.

"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.

Some speakers scheduled to appear at the event had announced they would not attend.

A previously scheduled counterdemonstration against the series of talks initially scheduled by conservative speakers in downtown Berkeley Saturday was expected to happen.

That event, called "No Hate in the Bay: March Against White Supremacy," is sponsored by several groups, including labor unions and human rights organizations.

Writer Milo Yiannopoulos, conservative author David Horowitz, activist Lisa De Pasquale and Breitbart News contributor Ariana Rowlands were among four confirmed speakers for the free speech week, according to the campus.

Lucian Wintrich, a writer for Gateway Pundit, a website that has published conspiracy theories on such topics as Hillary Clinton's health, was on the university's list of confirmed speakers released Wednesday. However, Wintrich also pulled out of the event, citing in a blog post the "the seemingly likely chance that something impedes the event."

Wintrich said in an interview that he didn't want college students to "waste their money" coming to the event.

Yiannopoulos said several high-profile speakers would attend the festival, but one of the most controversial names on the list - conservative commentator Ann Coulter - said Friday that she was "never" coming. Coulter had been scheduled to speak on campus earlier this year, but that engagement was scrapped at the last minute.

"I never planned to speak (at Free Speech Week)," she said in an email Friday. "My speakers bureau never booked me to speak at Berkeley. No contract for me to speak existed."

Former White House strategist Stephen K. Bannon was another unconfirmed speaker. He didn't respond to repeated requests for comment.

The university has incurred at least $1.4 million in security costs since February, when Yiannopoulos' last appearance sparked violent protests. The campus spent $200,000 on security for that event, $600,000 for Coulter, whose event was canceled, and an estimated $600,000 for the talk last week by conservative writer Ben Shapiro, according to the university.

Officials shut down a large portion of Berkeley's campus as well as three city blocks to prevent the kind of rioting that happened when Yiannopoulos' February event was canceled. The protests outside Shapiro's talk were relatively subdued with no widespread violence and nine arrests.

Berkeley has become a favorite spot for far-right activists to speak out, knowing they can get attention and push emotional buttons in what is essentially enemy territory.


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