Confusion continues to surround Free Speech Week at UC Berkeley two days before events are scheduled to kick off.
While some media are reporting that the Berkeley Patriot, the student organization hosting the four-day conservative political event, have called it off, British right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, an event headliner, posted on Facebook that it’s going on.
“Contrary to press reports, Free Speech Week is not cancelled. We will announce our full plans for the week at a press conference tomorrow, which will also be live streamed on Facebook and YouTube, at 13.30pm Pacific Time,” Yiannopoulos wrote.
Berkeley Patriot told NBC Bay Area on Thursday the organization has not pulled out of the event. A Berkeley Patriot member also said the only thing that would stop Yiannopoulos is a “bad hair day.”
In a statement, UC Berkeley spokesperson Dan Mogulof said that officials are going ahead with planning Free Speech Week between Sept. 24 and Sept. 27. He squished any assertions being circulated that blamed the university for the event being canceled.
The university plans to spend almost a million dollars on security, Mogulof said, to make sure students are “safe and secure.”
Earlier this month, UC Berkeley spent $600,000 on ramping up security for a talk by political commentator Ben Shapiro. Students and residents of Berkeley say they are tired of their city becoming the center of political controversy, often with dire consequences.
The American Civil Liberties Union and event speakers listed on the Free Speech Week roster have distanced themselves from it, and the organizers.
On Tuesday, the Northern California chapter of the ACLU, released a statement denying it was helping the Berkeley Patriot against a legal battle with the university over the event’s logistics.
“Make no mistake — the views expressed by Steve Bannon, Ann Coulter and Milo Yiannopoulos are about bigotry and racism,” the ACLU said in a statement. “While the Constitution protects the expression of those views, let’s be clear that this event is about spreading hate and intolerance, not free speech.”
Uncertainty continues to loom over the event’s speakers, as well as the venues, with a number of “unconfirmed speakers” currently listed on the roster, the highlights of which include former White House chief strategist Bannon (whom Yiannopoulos calls “Uncle Steve), and controversial political commentator Ann Coulter. Coulter told the Associated Press Friday she’s not coming.
Coulter told AP that “Yiannopoulos’ team had been in touch with her but that the university was ‘dead set on blocking’ the event so she decided not to bother.”
So far, it looks like only Yiannopoulos has confirmed. On Friday morning, Yiannopoulos sent off a series of Facebook posts to show he was actually en route to Berkeley, including a picture of his luggage: eight suitcases and a Louis Vuitton duffle bag. On Friday afternoon, there were reports of him walking out of SFO wearing a hoodie.
Yiannopoulos claims in his Facebook posts that UC Berkeley had been uncooperative with event arrangements, and posted videos of a man ripping down Milo posters on the UC Berkeley campus.
Interspersed between posts about Berkeley Free Speech Week, were posts bashing lesbian superheroines, “why feminism ruins lives” and why “everything is wrong with Sweden” — typical fodder for his followers.
Multiple media reports have summed up the latest events as Yiannopoulos simply trolling Berkeley after what happened the last time he sit foot in the city — America’s bastion of free speech. During that scheduled appearance in February, protesters, mainly from black-masked members of the Antifa, set fire to the Cal campus, damaged city property and sparked violence leading to hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of damage, only because they claimed they didn’t want him to spew hate speech on campus.
Breitbart News, where Yiannopoulos was working at the time, called the protests an attack on free speech. At that time, Yiannopoulos promised he would be back, and Brietbart called him the true heir to Berkeley’s Free Speech Movement.
Yiannopoulos resigned from Breitbart shortly after that, following his remarks about pedophilia, during which he endorsed sexual relations with young boys, drawing ire from many, including conservatives who had earlier supported him, despite his insults to Muslims, Jews and Hispanics.
Yiannopoulos said on his Facebook account he plans to march in Berkeley Sunday. “We will march through Sproul Plaza, where the Free Speech Movement began and where we will begin to lead a new one,” he wrote.
NBC Bay Area’s Jodi Hernandez contributed to this report.
Published at 11:26 AM PDT on Sep 22, 2017 | Updated at 1:10 PM PDT on Sep 22, 2017