Red Alert Politics broke the story last night that the Berkeley Free Speech Week is essentially canceled. But what exactly does canceled mean? Milo Yiannopoulos assures the show will go on.
Like the over-promised and shockingly under-delivered Fyre Fest, people can show up — but if the accommodations aren’t there, it’s essentially a non-event.
In talking with multiple individuals involved with the organizing of Free Speech Week, it became clear to me that the intentions to put on an event heralding the principles of free speech were pure, but the logistical hurdles imposed by UC Berkeley coupled with the threat of violent leftists was too much to overcome.
As I reported, student leaders of the Berkeley Patriot are scared of Antifa and the Berkeley administration — and are altogether overwhelmed by the controversy.
To this end, long email chains between student organizers and the UC Berkeley administration have been made available to journalists upon request, and available to the public on Instagram. They show a lack of urgency by administrators to complete event negotiations by the proposed event dates, as well as bureaucratic red tape and a failure to accommodate the student leaders simple requests.
In one particular exchange of note, the UC Berkeley administration requires the Berkeley Patriot pay a large security deposit fee which, according to the legal paperwork, was non-refundable even in the case that UC Berkeley canceled the event. Who in their right mind would sign over a large sum of money to an administration which clearly has no interest in conservative ideals being heard on campus if that deposit was nonrefundable if/when foul play occurred?
UC Berkeley’s failure to budge on this clause held the Berkeley Patriot hostage and the event planning in limbo, which created the “missed deadlines” that the university is using to put the blame on students.
Now, without indoor space secured, Free Speech Week became a fully outdoors event. This caused obvious logistical safety concerns for high profile speakers like Ann Coulter and Steve Bannon. While intellectually rugged, one can hardly imagine Coulter standing in the streets, screaming her political satire through a megaphone as mob violence breaks out on either side. As one insider told me, “can you imagine? Bannon would get shot. Antifa would have snipers or something. They have to speak inside.”
Without an indoor venue or the promised big name speakers, student organizers began to worry. Some felt the event was too disorganized to continue and according to one report, more than a week ago, students asked the Berkeley administration if they could rescind their invitation to Milo Inc.
At the same time, campus administrators ramped up their scare tactics against involved students. According to a leaked copy of today’s press conference transcript, the administration conducted a “Salem witch trial” against students, where some were even threatened with expulsion.
Also in the leaked transcript, and confirmed by a letter sent to UC Berkeley’s Interim Vice Chancellor by the Berkeley Patriot’s lawyer, is the accusation that the university opened up a campus-wide “hate crime” investigation on the students involved, which included investigative work done by the campus police department.
The actions by UC Berkeley administrators were so grossly negligent that students are planning to file a retaliatory action complaint and lawsuit, in addition to the complaint already filed against UC Berkeley with the United States Department of Justice.
With all of this in mind, the Berkeley Patriot is “canceling all Free Speech Week activities it sponsored. This cancellation is solely because of the actions, as well as threats made…by administration…” according to the aforementioned letter.
Hosting the grandiose event as-advertised would have been a large production to begin with, had it been apolitical and put on by professional event coordinators at a private venue. Bringing together controversial speakers at a public university, where students’ education and civil liberties are threatened, pushes the events into the bounds of the impossible.
Whether or not Free Speech Week is canceled really depends on your definition of canceled. Yiannopoulos still plans to speak daily and is now advertising a Free Speech march through the campus on Sunday, despite losing his student sponsors. However, Free Speech Week will not be as it was originally advertised, due to overburdensome campus regulations, the scare tactics used by leftist thugs and administrators, and the overall lack of support that right-leaning students have on campus.
The free speech movement certainly lost this uphill battle, however, it has the ability to learn from — and litigate — this assault on first amendment rights on college campuses. More importantly, however, the free speech movement will win the war.