Conservative provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos says he will spend “hundreds of thousands of dollars” on security during an upcoming event at the University of California-Berkeley.
In an interview with Campus Reform, Yiannopoulos said that he is “prepared to spend whatever it takes” to provide security for the “Free Speech Week” that is scheduled for the end of September, underscoring his sincerity with the six-figure commitment.
According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, the September 24 event at UC-Berkeley’s Sproul Plaza is slated to feature a lineup of popular conservative firebrands, including Yiannopoulos, Ann Coulter, and former White House strategist Stephen Bannon.
Despite the university’s recent pledge to hold a “free speech year” and crack down on those who use violence to shut down speakers, however, the administration has come under increasing pressure to derail the upcoming event.
Earlier this week, for instance, Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin asked Chancellor Carol Christ to reevaluate her commitment to allowing the conservative speakers on campus.
“I’m very concerned about Milo Yiannopoulos and Ann Coulter and some of these other right-wing speakers coming to the Berkeley campus,” Arreguin told The San Francisco Chronicle. “It’s just a target for black bloc to come out and commit mayhem on the Berkeley campus and have it potentially spill out on the street.”
Other local lawmakers also echoed the remarks of the Berkeley mayor, citing security concerns as the primary danger of allowing Yiannopoulos and others to hold the event on a university campus.
“We don’t want the moral, psychological and fiscal expense of having these agents of hate coming to our town,” Berkeley City Councilman Ben Bartlett told The Los Angeles Times. “We know the contest of ideas is at the very heart of freedom, but at the same time when the ideas are certain to cause bloodshed I’m inclined to err on the side of protecting the population, and I say that with a heavy heart.”
Councilwoman Cheryl Davila likewise told the publication that she does not “appreciate that there are racists coming to UC Berkeley to spew hate.”
A UC-Berkeley spokesperson told Campus Reform in an email that the speakers for the upcoming event are being hosted by independent student organizations, and that the school therefore does not have “the legal right or desire to interfere with or cancel their invitations based on the perspectives and beliefs of the speakers.”
“Where we do have discretion is around everything that has to do with the safety of our communities,” the spokesperson said. “That priority, along with our commitment to Free Speech, remains at the center of our planning and preparations for future events.”
Yiannopoulos, for his part, is well aware of the severity of the threat posed by Antifa and other leftist groups, having been driven from Berkeley’s campus by violent rioters last time he was scheduled to speak at the school earlier this year.