- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 23, 2017

“Free Speech Week” festivities scheduled to begin Sunday at the University of California in Berkeley are up in the air after several high-profile participants said they aren’t attending and its organizers abandoned ship.

Milo Yiannopoulos, a right-wing provocateur and former Breitbart editor spearheading the event, announced earlier this month that former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon and conservative commentator Ann Coulter would speak at U.C. Berkeley during his four-day “Free Speech Week” starting Sunday.

Neither guest is currently slated to participate, however, and the student group organizing the event, Berkeley Patriot, told the school on Saturday that it’s canceled all of its sponsored “Free Speech Week” activities after being allegedly pressured by campus officials.

“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 U.C. Berkeley administration and your employees,” Berkeley Patriot attorney Marguerite Melo wrote the school’s interim vice chancellor Saturday. “This cancellation is solely because of the actions, as well as the threats made, against our clients by the administration and your employee.”

Yet for his part, Mr. Yiannopoulos insisted the event is still happening.

“I’ve just been told that student group the Berkeley Patriot, under pressure from the administration, is withdrawing its sponsorship of Free Speech Week,” Mr. Yiannopoulos reacted in a Facebook post Saturday. “The students may have pulled out of Free Speech Week but I and my speakers have not.”

“We will not be stopped from speaking on campus!” he added.

Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof called the last-minute cancellation “extremely unfortunate” and said the news came as the university was “spending significant sums of money and preparing for substantial disruption of campus life” related to the events.

“Claims that this is somehow the outcome desired by the campus are without basis in fact. The University was prepared to do whatever was necessary to support the First Amendment rights of the student organization,” he said.

Mr. Yiannopoulos previously attempted to speak at Berkeley in February, but the event was canceled when violent protests erupted outside of the venue as he prepared to take the stage.

He subsequently announced plans to hold a four-day-long “Free Speech Week” on campus this month rife with other controversial speakers, but several of the scheduled participants have since jumped ship: Ms. Coulter said on Friday that she wouldn’t be speaking because she assumed the event had been canceled, Mr. Bannon hasn’t acknowledged the event and at least two other speakers, former Google software engineer James Damore and controversial academic Charles Murray, said organizers added their names to the line-up without their permission.

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