Steve Bannon to speak at 'Free Speech Week' event at UC Berkeley

Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon is scheduled to come to UC Berkeley later this month as part of a four-day event organized by his former Breitbart employee and conservative firebrand Milo Yiannopoulos.

The event is titled “Berkeley Free Speech Week” and is set to begin Sept. 24, the latest in a series of planned speaking engagements by notable conservatives in the liberal enclave. Bannon “will deliver short remarks” on the final day of the event, according to a news release announcing the engagement.

Over the last year, some of these speaking commitments have been canceled or ended in violent clashes.

Bannon returned as the chairman of the far-right Breitbart website last month after serving as President Trump’s chief strategist. When Trump’s campaign was at it lowest point during the summer of 2016, Bannon was brought in to steer the ship, and his large influence on the president and his agenda was perhaps best reflected in a Time magazine cover from earlier this year with the headline “The Great Manipulator.”

In an interview with CBS News over the weekend, the conservative ideologue made clear that he’d continue to support the president’s agenda from the outside. These comments came as media reports surfaced that Bannon was helping to organize primary challengers to incumbent Republicans running in the 2018 midterm elections.

Yiannopoulos is also scheduled to speak at the event, and the release on his website said that “more than 20 additional speakers” will be announced. The 32-year-old appears to relish confrontations with people of different political views. A video posted Tuesday morning on YouTube teasing the speaking engagement was titled: “Bannon Infiltrates Berkeley”

"Uncle Steve was the force behind Trump’s election victory and much of his initial policymaking,” Yiannopoulos said in the release.

"Nothing could be better for the leftists who oppose Trump so vehemently than a lesson in the logic behind Trump’s actions, direct from the architect of his policies.”

Yiannopoulos, who resigned from Breitbart after video was released showing him making comments that were interpreted as being supportive of pedophilia, is arranging a number of speaking engagements that he calls his “Troll Academy tour.”

Students at Cal State Fullerton have said they are finalizing a plan for Yiannopoulos to speak at their campus as well.

Campuses such as Berkeley have struggled to balance their desire to promote free speech on campus and securing such events. In February, the community descended into violence as protesters took to the street to stop a planned Yiannopoulos event on campus.

Local leaders have been voicing their opposition to the prospect of Yiannopoulos coming back, out of fear of more clashes.

In a statement Tuesday, UC Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof said the university could not confirm who was speaking or when, and appeared to blame the event’s organizer — the Berkeley Patriot — for failing to provide timely information or meet “key deadlines.”

“We have repeatedly asked representatives of the Berkeley Patriot to confirm that contracts have been completed between the student organization and each of these speakers; to date they have not,” Mogulof said. “In addition, the tentative information the student group has shared with us about the scheduling of the proposed speakers conflicts with information that has been shared publicly by Mr. Yiannopoulos.”

Security was a concern, he said.

A number of proposed events are tentatively planned for buildings on campus with “specific security and procedural requirements,” and the student group is expected to submit a plan on how to keep the peace, Mogulof said.

“We have asked the student group to meet those requirements and have informed them in writing that critical deadlines are fast approaching,” Mogulof said.

“While campus officials and venue managers are working diligently to assist the Berkeley Patriot group with its proposed events, the group’s failure to meet important deadlines is making it increasingly difficult to ensure a safe and secure program,” he said.

Another former Breitbart writer, Ben Shapiro, who has openly opposed the president, is scheduled to speak Thursday. Over the weekend, Berkeley Provost Paul Alivisatos said the university was taking special precautions, including the use of a “closed perimeter” around the building and an “increased and highly visible police presence.”

The city government has also taken steps to allow local police to use pepper spray as a crowd-control tactic, and the university is requiring campus groups sponsoring large events to cover basic costs and give notice weeks ahead.

Staff writer Javier Panzar contributed to this report.


UPDATES:

3:05 p.m.: This article was updated with comments from UC Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof.

This article was originally published at 1:20 p.m.

Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World
64°