UC Berkeley spent $4 million for free speech event security

Berkeley police officers guard the campus building where conservative pundit Milo Yiannopoulos was to speak.
(Ben Margot / Associated Press)

UC Berkeley spent almost $4 million on security for a month of free-speech events last year when the campus became a flashpoint for the country’s political divisions.

The university revealed in documents that it spent $3.9 million to bring in outside police forces, pay their room, board and overtime, have ambulances on standby, rent barricades and pay other security costs for three events scheduled from Aug. 27 to Sept. 27.

The university split the costs with the office of UC President Janet Napolitano for what both described as unprecedented security circumstances.


“We would have certainly preferred to expend these precious resources on our academic mission,” Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ said Monday in a statement from the university. “We do not, however, regret having taken the steps that were clearly necessary to support our paired commitment to free speech and the safety of our campus community.”

Berkeley’s reputation as a liberal bastion and the birthplace of the 1960s’ Free Speech Movement made its campus and the city a rallying point for extremist groups from the left and right wing after President Trump’s election.

Several political demonstrations turned violent, starting with a February 2017 event that was to be hosted by conservative firebrand Milo Yiannopoulos. It was ultimately canceled as rioters set fires and smashed campus windows ahead of his planned speech.

After those riots, the university ramped up security for other politically charged events.