After ironing out issues with event coordinators, the UC Irvine College Republicans plan to bring back right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos as a speaker next year.
The university rejected the club’s original request to use its Pacific Ballroom to host Yiannopoulos and, at a separate event, conservative talk show host Dennis Prager.
But in an Oct. 3 letter to UCI administrators, Freedom X — a nonprofit law firm serving the conservative community — stated that such restrictions raised “serious 1st Amendment concerns.”
A solution was reached after university event coordinators and police met with club representatives and Bill Becker, president and chief counsel of Freedom X.
Becker, who wrote the letter, said university police Lt. Anthony Frisbee explained the possible safety risks of hosting a controversial speaker in the Pacific Ballroom.
UCI’s administrative procedures include a major events policy that requires security assessments for any event request, campus spokesman Tom Vasich said.
“We look at previous activities surrounding events and surrounding the speaker,” he said. “We kind of plan to say, ‘If similar things happen here, what will we do?’ … In some cases, we don’t want those things to happen here.”
Although Yiannopoulos’ appearances at UC Berkeley and Cal State Fullerton last year led to loud protests and arrests, his previous events at UCI have been far tamer. In June 2016, his appearance drew a small group of protesters. His second visit that October was more peaceful.
Instead of the Pacific Ballroom, which seats 800, UCI offered to let the Republican club use the Bren Events Center, which seats 5,000, at the same cost.
“We felt it was a win-win, and that the university understood our needs and our demands, and were cooperative in working it out with us,” Becker said.
He added that it’s “unfortunate” the club had to retain Freedom X to resolve the matter, but members welcomed a resolution without litigation.
Kimo Gandall, president of the College Republicans, said Yiannopoulos plans to speak in the spring quarter, though no date has been set. Prager is scheduled to speak Feb. 5.
“Think of our speaking strategy this year as an essay — Milo is the hook,” Gandall said. “When Milo speaks, people come out who were not interested in politics before and now are.”