Security for the Far Right’s “Free Speech Week” Will Cost UC-Berkeley More Than $1 Million

A university official calls the costs “extraordinary.”

Security for a scheduled Yiannopoulos appearance at UC-Berkeley in FebruaryBen Margot/AP

In anticipation of the much-hyped but still murky “Free Speech Week” in Berkeley, an upcoming four-day event organized by a student group called Berkeley Patriot and professional far-right troll Milo Yiannopoulos, the University of California-Berkeley now says it is poised to spend seven figures to protect public safety. 

“The university and its police department are proceeding on the assumption that all the speakers are showing up, and we are putting the necessary security procedures in place,” says UC-Berkeley assistant vice chancellor for public affairs, Dan Mogulof. Last week, the university spent approximately $600,000 on security to host conservative commentator Ben Shapiro. For the so-called Free Speech Week, says Mogulof, “We’re looking at an extraordinary level of cost—well in excess of a million dollars.”

Though last week Yiannopoulos claimed there were 25 confirmed speakers for the event, the latest line-up has only four confirmed speakers, including Yiannopoulos, according to Mogulof; 13 speakers who the student group says will attend still have not provided any documentation, as the university requests. Those unconfirmed speakers include former Trump White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, far-right pundit Anne Coulter, and blogger-cum-conspiracy theorist Mike Cernovich, whose claims to fame include “Pizzagate,” the phony election-year story that spread fake news about Hillary Clinton and her campaign chairman running a child sex-trafficking ring out of a Washington, D.C., restaurant. (The story infamously provoked a North Carolina man to show up at that restaurant and fire a gun.) Also on the list of unconfirmed speakers are several individuals who the Southern Poverty Law Center documents as having extremist views.

While the student group hosting the event previously missed key deadlines, there are no remaining barriers to the event itself moving forward, says Mogulof. There is nothing to stop any of the unconfirmed speakers from showing up to participate on Sproul Plaza, the historic campus location where the event is set to be held starting this Sunday. 

“We’re ready for them to come,” says Mogulof. But he adds that none of the unconfirmed speakers has been in contact with the university to discuss security measures, which he says is inadvisable. “It’s always better when our own police department can coordinate directly with a speaker and make sure we’re all on the same page with security,” he says, including reminding high-profile figures who might have their own security that California law prohibits bringing firearms on campus.

“It’s befuddling to us why these speakers would not want to do that if in fact they are coming,” Mogulof says.

As of Thursday, according to UC Berkeley, the schedule of events was as follows:

Sunday 9/24, 12PM to 1PM, Savio Steps, Upper Sproul Plaza, one unconfirmed speaker

Sunday 9/24, 5:00PM to 6:45PM, Savio Steps, Upper Sproul Plaza, speaker Lisa De Pasquale, two unconfirmed speakers

Monday, 9/25, 12PM to 1 PM. Savio Steps, Upper Sproul Plaza, speaker Ariana Rowlands

Monday, 9/25, 5PM to 7PM, Savio Steps, Upper Sproul Plaza, two unconfirmed speakers

Tuesday, 9/26, 12pm to 1PM Lower Sproul Plaza, an unconfirmed speaker

Tuesday, 9/26, 5PM-7PM, Lower Sproul Plaza, speaker David Horowitz plus one unconfirmed speaker

Wednesday, 9/27, 12PM-1PM, Savio Steps, Upper Sproul Plaza, three unconfirmed speakers

Wednesday, 9/27, 5PM-7PM, Savio Steps, Upper Sproul Plaza, speaker Milo Yiannopoulos plus three unconfirmed speakers

The unconfirmed speakers include:

Miss Elaine (Sunday at noon)
Lucian Wintrich (Sunday at 5)
Chadwick Moore (Sunday at 5)
SABO (Monday at 5)
Monica Crowley (Monday at 5)
Ryan Girdusky (Tuesday at noon)
Pamela Geller (Tuesday at 5)
Stelion Onufrei (Wednesday at noon)
SARGOH (Wednesday at noon)
Mike Cernovich (Wednesday at noon)
Steve Bannon (Wednesday at 5)
Ann Coulter (Wednesday at 5)
Alex Marlow (Wednesday at 5)