Only months after speeches by conservative authors Milo Yiannopoulos and Ann Coulter were canceled at the University of California at Berkeley amid security issues, the political provocateurs have been invited back next month for “Free Speech Week.”
White House senior strategist Steve Bannon is also scheduled to appear, The Chronicle of Higher Education reports, although other officials and organizations could not confirm his participation.
The Berkeley Patriot, a conservative campus newspaper and registered campus organization, negotiated with the school for the appearance by Yiannopoolous, a former Breitbart writer, and Coulter for the Sept. 24-27 events, the East Bay Times reported.
UC Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof said the organizers “have been good collaborators and attentive to policy,” the newspaper said.
Berkeley chancellor Carol Christ, in a statement on the upcoming events, confirmed Yiannopolous was among the invited speakers.
“Berkeley, as you know, is the home of the Free Speech Movement, where students on the right and students on the left united to fight for the right to advocate political views on campus,” she wrote. “Particularly now, it is critical that the Berkeley community come together once again to protect this right. It is who we are.
“If you choose to protest, do so peacefully,” she said. “That is your right, and we will defend it with vigor. We will not tolerate violence, and we will hold anyone accountable who engages in it.”
Yiannopoulos, in a Facebook post, cited Christ’s letter in confirming the invitation, adding: “What a difference six months make! Let’s hope Berkeley sticks to this commitment to free expression.”
A scheduled appearance by Yiannopoulos in February was canceled after violent on-campus protests raised safety concerns. Berkeley blamed “150 masked agitators” who threw rocks at police, smashed windows at the student union, lit fires and threw gasoline bombs.
In April, Young America’s Foundation pulled out of the planned appearance by Coulter, citing security issues, prompting the author to cancel the event. She called it a “sad day for free speech,” according to The Daily Californian, the university’s independent, student-run newspaper.
Free speech rallies have pitted conservatives against counter-protesters in recent days in the wake of a rally in Charlottesville, Va., two weeks ago by white nationalists, neo-Nazis and KKK members that turned violent.
One woman was killed following clashes between the white nationalist groups, who were protesting plans to remove a statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee, and counter-protesters.
A “free speech rally” by conservative groups last week in Boston fizzled after some 40,000 people turned out in protest and only a handful of rally participants were able to reach the site.
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