BERKELEY, Calif. ― It was supposed to be his Woodstock. But on Saturday morning, a day before Milo Yiannopoulos’s “Free Speech Week” rally at the University of California, Berkeley, was scheduled to start, the alt-right provocateur alerted his followers that he would be holding an “emergency” press conference on Facebook Live.
His previously scheduled press conference, set for a luxe event space on Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay, had reportedly been canceled by the venue’s owners. And so come noon, he could be found sitting in a drab hotel room, flanked by anti-Muslim activist Pamela Geller and men’s-rightser-cum-conspiracist Mike Cernovich. Yiannopoulos had an announcement: “Free Speech Week” was no more. And then he tried to sell some stuff to his fans.
Hours earlier, the conservative student co-organizers of the rally told the university they had canceled the four-day shindig, citing what they claimed to be unfair treatment by UC Berkeley administration.
In the video, Yiannopoulos explained that without a student sponsor, he couldn’t hold an official university event. So he announced that he’d be holding an “unofficial” rally at the campus on Sunday.
“We are going to be hosting an event, come hell or high water, tomorrow,” he said. “We have been in touch with Berkeley PD and are very happy to say the police are behind us, and will be staffing Sproul Plaza tomorrow in force.”
This rally, he said, would go forward “with or without student help, with or without the cooperation of UC Berkeley itself,” and even if “domestic terrorists” from Antifa showed up.
He lashed out at the university, claiming it used bureaucratic tricks to railroad “Free Speech Week.” The administration, Yiannopoulos claimed, “had done everything in its power to crush” the event.
Then came the sell. Yiannopoulos promoted some future events at other California universities — part of what he’s dubbed his “Troll Academy” tour — and took time to announce that his company, Milo Inc., would be publishing a new book by Pamela Geller: Fatwa: Hunted in America.
Yiannopoulos had wanted his “Free Speech Rally” in Berkeley to be the Woodstock of the far-right: a big, bad gathering of prominent far-right figureheads, including Ann Coulter and Steve Bannon. And his student co-organizers had hoped left-wing riots at the event might amplify Milo’s message.
But here was Milo on Saturday, his Woodstock canceled, talking to a…