A large protest crowd and 11 arrests failed to stop conservative bad boy Milo Yiannopoulos from finally speaking at the University of California Berkeley, but it would be hard to describe his brief appearance Sunday as a win for anyone but antifa.
The university spent $800,000 on additional security for what wound up being a 15-minute rally featuring Mr. Yiannopoulos, who cut short the event amid noisy protest crowds and tight security procedures that prevented many supporters from hearing him.
Only about 100 people were admitted past police barricades in time to see the former Breitbart editor, who gave brief remarks, sang and signed autographs on Sproul Plaza before exiting with his private security detail.
“We were relieved that it was relatively peaceful and safe,” said university spokesman Dan Mogulof at a press conference. “At the same time, it feels a little bit like the most expensive photo op in the university’s history.”
Mr. Mogulof said he didn’t know why the rally ended when it did, but Mr. Yiannopoulos cited the din from the protesters as well as safety concerns.
“I wish I had been able to speak for longer today, but a yelling protester made it impossible for any of our speakers to be heard (Berkeley refused to allow us any amplified sound), and Antifa showed up and I was told we had to evacuate,” Mr. Yiannopoulos said later on Facebook.
His appearance came after weeks of wrangling with university officials over Free Speech Week, an event scheduled for Sept. 24-27 that was cancelled Saturday by its student sponsors at the conservative campus newspaper Berkeley Patriot.
The students, who have filed a free-speech complaint with the Justice Department, accused the university of putting up bureaucratic obstacles aimed at thwarting the event, while Mr. Mogulof said organizers failed to meet deadlines, provide an accurate list of speakers, and arrange with campus police for security.
After the cancellation, Mr. Yiannopoulos said he would show up to speak in Berkeley as a private citizen every day from Sunday through Wednesday.
Those waiting outside the barriers complained about not being let in, but Mr. Mogulof said that the slow line was driven by safety concerns after one man tried to smuggle in plastic brass knuckles designed to escape a metal detector.
Berkeley police chief Margo Bennett said the crowd outside the plaza numbered 700-800 people.
“For the most part, we were pleased that our exercise in security went well,” she said. “There were no injuries, few arrests, and Mr. Yiannopoulos knew that he was coming in as a private citizen, did come in, got the same kind of treatment that any spontaneous visit of this magnitude would have gotten.”
She said one man was arrested by campus police for violating the city’s noise ordinance with an amplified speaker, while Berkeley police said 11 others —including at least two who wore masks — were arrested for offenses that included carrying banned weapons and resisting arrest.
Mr. Yiannopoulos, who appeared with right-wing activists Mike Cernovich and Pamela Geller, said Saturday he was “disappointed” at the students for scrapping the event, but nonetheless said he would donate $10,000 to the Berkeley Patriot.
Protesters took credit for the truncated rally, chanting, “Hey, Milo, we shut you down, Berkeley is an immigrant town,” according to the Daily Californian.
“Cops protect Milo, Pam & Mike who try to speak but the crowd drowns them out & tbh nobody cares what they have to say,” said Eugene Antifa in a tweet.
Cops protect Milo, Pam & Mike who try to speak but the crowd drowns them out. & tbh nobody cares what they have to say. #Berkeley pic.twitter.com/LAnBBPpQa0— Eugene Antifa (@eugeneantifa) September 24, 2017
“It was beautiful. We basically pacified a violent situation by sticking together for unity and community against racists and bigots,” said Richard Alvarado of By Any Means Necessary told the Mercury News.
Meanwhile, conservatives described the episode as another blow to campus free speech.
Berkeley College Republicans president Troy Worden, who wasn’t able to get past security in time to see Mr. Yiannopoulos, said protesters were apparently trying to jump over the police barricades.
“Basically, antifa forced Milo to evacuate for his own safety and prevented anyone else from hearing him,” Mr. Worden said on a video posted on Facebook. “So no matter, even though Milo came here peacefully and a lot of people wanted to hear him speak, they couldn’t do it because people still can’t follow the rules.”
A Feb. 1 speech by Mr. Yiannopoulos at Berkeley was cancelled after rioting broke out, resulting in $100,000 in damage to the campus. Appearances by conservative commentators Ann Coulter and David Horowitz were also scrapped this year over safety concerns.
“So once again, free speech has been shut down at the birthplace of the free-speech movement,” Mr. Worden said.
• Valerie Richardson can be reached at email@example.com.
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