Troubles mount for far-right Berkeley event as speakers bail

Troubles mount for far-right Berkeley event as speakers bail
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Far-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos's "Free Speech Week" event series in Berkeley, Calif., might be canceled as speakers drop out and logistical issues mount. 

The event was supposed to be a four-day lineup of speeches from conservative firebrands such as former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon and pundit Ann Coulter at the University of California, Berkeley. 

Yiannopoulos hoped to generate controversy and media attention with the event, an echo of his attempted speech at the university in February that was eventually shut down by left-wing demonstrators. At the time, Yiannopoulos declared the February fiasco a "win" by "proving" that Berkeley doesn't welcome free speech. 

But Yiannopoulos's attempt to return to Berkeley has been bogged more more mundane woes, as many key details about Free Speech Week remain up in the air. Yiannopoulos and The Berkeley Patriot, the conservative campus group he has been working with to plan the event, failed to secure the correct permits, a venue or organize basic travel plans for their guests.  

“The University cannot defend spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to provide security arrangements for events based on a schedule built on a long list of unconfirmed speakers and/or a news release issued by an external commercial enterprise,” a spokesman for Berkeley said on Monday. 

At the same time, a number of speakers once listed as scheduled for the event have bailed or said they never planned to come in the first place. Academic Charles Murray, commentator Heather Mac Donald, fired Google engineer James Damore, Blackwater founder Erik Prince and Lucian Wintrich, the White House correspondent for the right-wing blog Gateway Pundit, have all said that they have no plans to attend, despite their presence on the list of speakers.

Bannon and Coulter never confirmed their attendance, and it is unlikely that they will show, either. As of Thursday night only four speakers are for multiple day's worth of events. One speaker told Vanity Fair that Yiannopoulos's company, Milo Inc., has even refused to provide speakers with details about their flights or hotels.

On Facebook, Yiannopoulos says that the event is still on and he will not be "silenced" by "biased media." He is planning to hold a press conference on Saturday afternoon to provide further details. Many have speculated that he will be forced to call it off.  

As of Friday, Yiannopoulos plans to hold a press conference repeated to the event on Saturday, as well as a march for free speech through the college's campus on Sunday at noon. But even those events were in question, with Gateway Pundit, usually an ideological ally of Yiannopoulos's, declaring that the week's events were "unlikely to happen."

"It’s time to reclaim free speech at UC Berkeley and send shockwaves through the American education system to every other college under liberal tyranny. Conservatives are fighting back. Break the shackles of leftist control over our universities. Shatter their echo chambers. Close down their safe spaces," Yiannopoulos wrote on Facebook Friday morning.