Group cancels Milo Yiannopoulos’ Phoenix speeches, cites safety worries
PHOENIX — A group made the decision Thursday to cancel two Valley speeches by controversial conservative figure Milo Yiannopoulos because of safety concerns.
In a Facebook post, the United Liberty Coalition said it asked Yiannopoulos to not attend the Friday and Saturday events because the venues did not provide enough security.
“This decision was difficult for us to make but ultimately the safety of both our speakers and guests are of the utmost importance to us,” the group wrote.
In a statement, Yiannopoulos said the cancellation showed that it was time for leaders to step up and protect freedom of speech.
“Left-wing bullies continue to use the threat of violence — and, often, deploy real violence — to suppress conservative speakers,” he said. “In a constitutional republic, government should have a monopoly on the use of force in order to protect the rights of its citizens.”
The coalition said refunds would be offered to attendees who had hoped to see Yiannopoulos, but the events would continue as planned with other speakers.
The stops were part of Yiannopoulos’ “Troll Academy” tour. Tickets were still available on the tour website after the cancellation was announced.
In a video, Yiannopoulos said the new tour “takes everything you loved about the ‘Dangerous [expletive] tour and jacks it up to 11.”
The “Troll Academy” tour will be Yiannopoulos’ first since his “Dangerous [expletive]” campus tour, when Yiannopoulos traveled to various college campuses in the U.S. and Great Britain throughout 2015 and 2016. It was called “as offensive as you’d imagine” by The Guardian.
During the tour, several high-profile protests broke out, including one on the famously liberal University of California, Berkeley campus.
The former Breitbart editor’s first run-in on the campus happened in February, when more than 1,500 students and faculty members turned out to protest a speech that Yiannopoulos was scheduled to make.
The protests shortly turned violent, with several activists setting fires, damaging property, throwing fireworks and attacking other members of the crowd. Yiannopoulos’ speech was canceled 20 minutes into the event, but the protests continued for hours. One person was arrested and an estimated $100,000 worth of damage was caused.
In September, Yiannopoulos held a weeklong conservative free speech showcase called “free speech week” on the Berkeley campus. In response, the UC Berkeley students turned up to the speech in an attempt to condemn him.
Due to angry shouts from small groups of competing protesters, Yiannopoulos’ appearance lasted less than half an hour, with only a few dozen supporters turning out. Several people were arrested in the coming days in connection with the protest, but there was no damage reported.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.