September 13, 2017 01:17 GMT by nytimes.com

Bannon Expected to Address Berkeley, a Hotbed of Conflict Over Free Speech

Bannon Expected to Address Berkeley, a Hotbed of Conflict Over Free Speech

Stephen K. Bannon has agreed to speak this month at the invitation of a conservative student publication at the University of California, Berkeley.

The University of California, Berkeley, has erupted this year in response to planned speeches by conservative flamethrowers like Milo Yiannopoulos and Ann Coulter. On Tuesday, another figure was added to the mix: Stephen K. Bannon, the right-wing media executive and former chief strategist to President Trump.

Mr. Bannon has agreed to speak this month as part of Free Speech Week, a four-day event organized by The Berkeley Patriot, a conservative student publication. Mr. Yiannopoulos is also scheduled to appear.

Bryce Kasamoto, a Berkeley Patriot spokesman, confirmed that Mr. Bannon and Mr. Yiannopoulos would appear at the event, which runs from Sept. 24-27. He indicated that there would be additional speakers but said he could not name them yet because his group was “still working with the university and law enforcement to finalize our itinerary.”

Dan Mogulof, a spokesman for the university, said the event’s organizers had not submitted any of the information or forms required for the university to provide security: a description of the events, for example, and a police services request form. The requirements are outlined in Berkeley’s events policy, he noted, and “they just have not completed any of that.”

Mr. Mogulof said that university officials had already let some deadlines slide, but that they could not wait beyond the end of this week.

“This is all about providing to them the security they want and we want to offer for their events, and it can’t happen overnight,” he said. For a speech by the conservative commentator Ben Shapiro on Thursday, organized by the Berkeley College Republicans, the university is bringing in “a huge number” of police officers and “spending hundreds of thousands of dollars,” he added. “The logistics are exceedingly complex.”

Mr. Kasamoto wrote in a Facebook message that he and others at The Berkeley Patriot “aren’t sure specifically what paperwork they are referring to, but we will work to get all of this clarified in a good-faith and collaborative manner.” He added, “We hope that ‘campus officials’ will contact us directly about any of their concerns regarding our efforts to make this event a success for the Berkeley community.”

Mr. Mogulof said that the student organizers “know exactly” what the requirements are and that university officials had “repeatedly asked” them to provide specific documents.

Berkeley has been a hotbed of controversy this year, with a series of planned — and, in some cases, later canceled — speeches by conservatives whom opponents accused of promoting bigotry and hatred.

In February, Berkeley canceled a speech by Mr. Yiannopoulos — a former Breitbart News editor who has gleefully rejected “political correctness” and denigrated feminists, Muslims, transgender people and other groups — after initially peaceful protests on campus turned violent. Ms. Coulter, a conservative commentator known for many similar stances, was scheduled to speak in April, but the university canceled the event a week beforehand, saying it could not assure “the safety of Ms. Coulter, the event sponsors, audience and bystanders.” Both speakers had been invited by the Berkeley College Republicans.

Conservatives, including Mr. Yiannopoulos and Ms. Coulter, have accused the university of suppressing free speech. In February, Mr. Trump posted on Twitter: “If U.C. Berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view - NO FEDERAL FUNDS?”

Many supporters of the planned speeches noted that Berkeley was the birthplace of the free speech movement and a cradle of liberal activism in the 1960s, and accused its students of having different standards for liberal and conservative speech. Opponents argued in response that the views Mr. Yiannopoulos and Ms. Coulter promoted against marginalized groups should be outside the bounds of civil discourse.

But Mr. Shapiro is still expected to speak as planned on Thursday, and Mr. Yiannopoulos and Mr. Bannon remain scheduled for later this month. In August, Mayor Jesse Arreguin of Berkeley asked the university to cancel Mr. Yiannopoulos’s speech, and the university declined, saying it would not reject student groups’ invited speakers based on their political beliefs.

Read more at nytimes.com