‘Free Speech Week’ still on despite sponsor exit
The student organizers of the “Free Speech Week” at the University of California, Berkeley have announced that they will no longer be hosting the event due to pressure from school administrators.
In a letter to Berkeley’s Interim Vice Chancellor Stephen Sutton, the attorneys representing the student group Berkeley Patriot accused the university of “outright hostility” and threats toward the event organizers.
“Since announcing their intent to host the event, the student group has been subjected to extraordinary pressure and resistance, if not outright hostility, by the UC Berkeley administration and your employees,” the attorneys state in the letter posted online by conservative provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos.
“Your employees and the administration have failed to protect our students from physical assault and vandalism by UC Berkeley students and in some cases, faculty/staff,” the attorneys alleged.
The letter also blasts the administration for starting a “hate crime” investigation, and “insinuating that the students affiliated or associated with the Berkeley Patriot, were the subject of the ‘investigation’ or words to that effect.”
“The intent of the threat was clear,” the attorneys wrote. “Cease speaking out or face criminal investigation. Well, our clients’ heard the Chancellor’s threat. They will be quiet, for now.”
Yiannopoulos, however, has reiterated that the “Free Speech Week” will go on despite the Berkeley Patriot’s exit.
“We have been let down by the student organizers, but I will not back down,” Yannopoulos wrote in a Facebook post. “We have reached a deal with the police…We shall go on to the end. We shall speak in Berkeley, we shall speak on the plazas and the steps. We shall defend free speech, whatever the cost may be. We shall never surrender!”
During a press conference Saturday afternoon, Yiannopoulos also announced that the Berkeley Police Department will be present at the slated event on Sunday, and that he will “take care” of those who spent money on travel for the event.
“We are going to be hosting an event come hell or high water tomorrow,” he said. “We have been in touch with Berkeley PD. [I am] very happy to say that the police are behind us and they will be staffing Sproul Plaza tomorrow in force.
“We will be expressing our constitutional rights to free speech—free expression—on Sproul Plaza, the home of the free speech movement, tomorrow as planned, with or without student help, with or without the cooperation of UC Berkeley itself,” he added.
Yiannopoulos also said that the conservative columnist Ann Coulter and former Chief White House Strategist Steve Bannon will have to be rescheduled “for later” and reiterated that the blame for the development “lies squarely with UC Berkeley.”
“Please, if you are watching this and you spent money coming to UC Berkeley—the university did this to you, but I will fix it,” Yiannopoulos promised. “I am not prepared to see UC Berkeley leave people out of pocket when they have come to support me and our other speakers.”
Berkeley Patriot’s decision to discontinue its sponsorship of the event may also lead to additional legal action against the university in the near future, the group's attorneys wrote in their letter to Sutton.
“You are further notified that our clients are contemplating initiating litigation against the responsible parties and the administration for violation of our clients civil rights,” the attorneys warned.
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