Protesters at the Feb. 1 Milo Yiannopoulos event at UC Berkeley. Photo: Dan Lurie

Update May 6, 10 am: Milo Yiannopoulos held a live press event via YouTube on Friday, but didn’t reveal much about his plans for “Free Speech Week,” in UC Berkeley. At Yiannopoulos’ Cinco de Milo event in Miami, he declared that he would spend a week in Berkeley and “if the college authorities don’t actively assist” him, the week would turn into a month. He also said the week “would be this movement’s Woodstock.”

Yiannopoulos entered the party room dressed in a white suit and sunglasses with a white boa wrapped around his neck. A number of bare-chested muscle men stood behind him as Yiannopoulos announced he would be suing Simon and Schuster for $10 million for canceling the publication of his memoir. Yiannopoulos also said he would be starting his own imprint, Dangerous Books, and its first product will be his book. It will be released next week. Yiannopoulos hopes to bring many conservative writers into its fold. “We are going to take over the publishing industry,” said Yiannopoulos.

Original story:  It’s Cinco de Mayo, a day that commemorates the Mexican Army’s victory over French forces at a battle on May 5, 1862. Restaurants around Berkeley and Oakland are offering specials to help draw attention to the plight of immigrants.

One day it is not — although there were fears that it would happen in Berkeley — is “Cinco de Milo.”

That would be a day celebrating Milo Yiannopoulos, the once influential Breitbart writer who saw his lucrative book contract and invitations to address the nation’s top conservatives wither and die after a video surfaced showing him appearing to condone sexual relationships between minors and adults.

It is the same Milo Yiannopoulos whose appearance at UC Berkeley on Feb. 1 touched off demonstrations, attacks and vandalism by about 150 black-clad so-called “antifa” protesters on campus and in downtown Berkeley. Cal’s cancellation of Yiannopoulos’ speech prompted an outcry by conservatives and extremists on the right, who characterize the situation as a free speech issue, while the university refers to it as a safety issue. Since then, there have been three rallies in Berkeley — on March 4, April 15 and April 27. The rallies pitted the extreme right against the extreme left, and two of them turned violent, with police making multiple arrests.

After the most violent rally, on April 15, it appeared that Yiannopoulos might be showing up in Berkeley on May 5. Days before, he had announced that he intended to come to Berkeley for a week for a “huge multi-day event called ‘Milo’s Free Speech Week.’”

“MILO’S FREE SPEECH WEEK will include events on the UC Berkeley campus,” Yiannopoulos wrote on Facebook. “We will stand united against the ‘progressive’ Left. We will loudly reject the venomous hectoring and moral hypocrisy of social justice warriors. Free speech belongs to everyone — not just the spoilt brats of the academy.”

Cinco de Milo poster at at Berkeley bus shelter, apparently by artist Sabo. Photo: Sabo

Posters about Cinco de Milo began to show up on bus shelters at Durant and Telegraph avenues and Bancroft and Telegraph avenues. A sign strung up on utility wires hung over one street. They featured an image of a penis with the slogan “The Return of the Good Hurt.” A Los Angeles-based street artist named Sabo took credit for installing the posters.

Clear Channel, the company with whom AC Transit contracts to maintain the shelters, removed the ads, although at least one piece of graffiti remained up through May 1.

“A Clear Channel representative confirms the images found inside the display case are unauthorized ads,” said Robert Lyles, the media affairs manager for AC Transit on Tuesday. “It appears that vandals tampered with the case and installed the ad. Additionally, Clear Channel was made aware of the unauthorized ads last week and removed them shortly thereafter. Each of the shelters also had graffiti. I am informed crews have been dispatched to clean any and all graffiti at each location.”

A Cinco de Milo sign is strung up on utility wires in Berkeley. Photo: Sabo
A bus shelter defaced with graffiti mocking antifa bears the signature of street artist Sabo on Bancroft Way near Telegraph Avenue, in Berkeley, on Saturday, April 29. He wrote the graffiti after parody posters he placed in the advertising display case were removed by authorities, according to his social media account. Photo: David Yee

Then in the last two days, Yiannopoulos announced that Cinco de Milo would happen in Miami not Berkeley. He said he would take the opportunity when in Miami on May 5 to announce details about his plans to appear in Berkeley in the fall. He plans to live-stream the event at 6 p.m. PST.

Yiannopoulos also claims undisclosed investors have put in $12 million to fund a new media company called Milo Inc., that will have a 30-person team based in Miami. In a Facebook post, Yiannopoulos said he had hired a seasoned media executive to lead the new company which will manage the provocateur’s books, tours, merchandise, radio and TV opportunities.

“This isn’t some vanity nameplate on a personal blog,” Yiannopolous said in a Facebook statement. “This is a fully tooled-up talent factory and management company dedicated to the destruction of political correctness and the progressive left. I will spend every waking moment of the rest of my life making the lives of journalists, professors, politicians, feminists, Black Lives Matter activists and other professional victims a living hell. Free speech is back — and it is fabulous.”

Yiannopoulos also announced that he would be giving out a “Mario Savio award,” named after the Berkeley graduate student who became the best known leader of the Free Speech Movement in 1964.

The clashes continue in Berkeley without Yiannopoulos

Yiannopoulos may be far away from Berkeley on Cinco de Mayo, but the chain of events set off by his UC Berkeley appearance in February continues without him.

On Thursday evening, the local chapter of a national group called Refuse Fascism held an event on campus advertised as “The Battle for Berkeley” and a “challenge to debate.”

One hundred people showed up for a talk by Sunsara Taylor, a self-identified communist revolutionary, who condemned the conservative speakers who were slated to speak on campus and the far-right protesters who have flocked to Berkeley as a result, calling them operatives for a fascist regime. The event drew both conservative and liberal students and a number of community members who had seen the many posters that were plastered around the city.

Sunsara Taylor gives a speech at a tense event at UC Berkeley on Thursday May 4. Photo: Natalie Orenstein

After Taylor’s talk, a question-and-answer session turned into a tense shouting match, indicative of the heightened emotions surrounding events in Berkeley this year. Audience members across the political spectrum yelled at each other and at Taylor, who argued fervently with them. One of the questions that incited yelling came from Troy Warden, the president of the Berkeley College Republicans, the group that invited both Milo Yiannopoulos and Ann Coulter to speak at the university.

“Will you condemn the violence perpetrated against my community?” Warden asked. It was the first of many similar comments from the audience, accusing Taylor of condoning the violence of black bloc antifa protesters.

“Will you condemn the Mother Of All Bombs?” she shot back. She argued that “not all violence is the same,” since some is perpetrated by people with power and some by “the masses rising up.”

“We need to do what the German people should have done when Hitler came to power,” she said, drawing cheers.

When the event ended, more than two hours after it began, many audience members lingered, seeming eager to continue arguing about the topics on the minds of many in Berkeley ever since the city has become something of a ground zero for extremists to meet and to clash with each other.

Natalie Orenstein contributed reporting to this story.

Related stories

"*" indicates required fields

See an error that needs correcting? Have a tip, question or suggestion? Drop us a line.

Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside and CItyside co-founder, is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California, published in November...