Twenty minutes: the time it took for Milo Yiannopoulos to be in and out, posing for selfies while sporting sunglasses and wrapped in an American flag, at the University of California-Berkeley this weekend.
And $800,000: the amount that the school paid in security detail—which included police reinforcements from eight different law-enforcement agencies and campuses across the state—to ensure crowd safety during the alt-right provocateur’s appearance.
Yiannopoulos, a controversial political figure who already incited storms of protest when he came to campus a few months ago, was at UC Berkeley yesterday as a guest speaker for “Free Speech Week,” an event set up by a conservative student group. The group officially called off the four-day program a day earlier (Sept. 24) after fielding many administrative concerns about speaking costs and safety issues.
But Yiannopoulos showed up on Sunday anyway, forcing the university to double down on security measures. His appearance, and the crowd of hundreds that showed up to fervently protest it, is just the latest in an ongoing narrative of liberal universities struggling to come to terms with conservative speakers; a recent Brookings study found that about one-fifth of college students condone the use of violence against “offensive” speakers (though its methodology has been attacked). More broadly, the event is also an embodiment of the larger nationwide clash over what free speech really means.
Because he was on campus as a private citizen and not an official speaker, there was no public system of address set up—and the Mercury News notes that “it wasn’t clear what Yiannopoulos told the crowd in brief remarks.”
Dan Mogulof, a spokesperson for UC Berkeley, told the local paper that “it feels like probably the most expensive photo opp in the university’s history.”