The much anticipated 'Free Speech Week' scheduled at University of California at Berkeley has been cancelled less than 24 hours before it was due to begin, but the controversy is likely to continue as right-wing agitator Milo Yiannopoulos vows to appear at an unsanctioned rally on campus.
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The event touted four days of provocative speakers and events, including appearances by conservative writer Ann Coulter , former Trump White House chief strategist Steve Bannon and former Breitbart editor Ben Shapiro.
Berkeley, with its history as a bastion for liberalism and birth of the Free Speech Movement, has become a center of far-right demonstrations and counter protests. Since February, four political demonstrations have turned violent with masked anarchists rioting on campus.
In preparations for "Free Speech Week," the university reportedly spent more than $1 million on extensive security precautions.
Some say the scheduled week-long rally had been falling apart for some time. The Berkelely Patriot, a campus publication working with Yiannopoulous on organizing the event, never reserved campus venues and appeared to pull out Friday afternoon.
After student group Berkeley Patriot called off the four-day festival, Yiannopoulos announced a planned march through campus on Sunday at Sproul Plaza, the center of 1960s campus activism. Yiannopoulos said he was blindsided and "personally irritated" by the news. "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," he wrote.
The university wasn't pleased by the last minute cancellation either. "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," UC Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof said in a statement.
Over the last few days, student bulletin boards on Sproul Plaza were papered with fliers calling on counter-protesters to "Shut Down Milo Yiannopoulos," saying his brand of inflammatory speech against Muslims, immigrants, women and transgender people was hateful and should not be allowed. The fliers advised supporters to bring bandannas to cover their faces in case police fire tear gas.
Yiannopoulos' attempt to speak at Berkeley in February was shut down by masked anarchists who rioted on campus.
In anticipation of Free Speech Week, several hundred people marched on the streets of Berkeley to Sproul Plaza on Saturday in a protest dubbed "No Hate in the Bay." They chanted "say it loud, say it clear, Nazis are not welcome here" and halted traffic at several blocked intersections.