Milo Yiannopoulos, a former Breitbart writer who says offensive shit for a living, has been planning a visit to the Phoenix area since September, as Breitbart initially reported.
But it looks like he's having a hard time finding a venue willing to host him.
A month ago, his Troll Academy Tour website listed two separate events in Phoenix. The first, listed as a "dinner," was supposedly going to take place at the Phoenix Convention Center on Friday, October 27.
However, when we called the Convention Center to confirm, spokesperson Cynthia Weaver said she didn’t have any bookings for Yiannopoulos, Troll Academy, or XVSocial — the marketing company promoting Yiannopoulos’ other scheduled event.
After talking to her staff, she called us back — Yiannopoulos' people had requested to reserve the convention center that day, she said, but it was already booked.
This checked out: There’s a Magic the Gathering competition taking place at the Convention Center this weekend, which was already being promoted before Yiannopoulos announced his tour dates.
The second event was supposedly going to take place on Thursday, November 2, at The Pressroom. But the venue didn’t return repeated phone calls from Phoenix New Times about whether or not that was true — and a Facebook event created by XVSocial, which categorized it as a "kid-friendly" affair, has since disappeared.
Likewise, the link for ticket sales now says “Not Available.” (Who would have guessed that tickets for Yiannopoulos' tour were being sold through Brown Paper Tickets, a self-described “fair-trade ticketing company?”)
Both events have since been removed from the Troll Academy website, which now states that Yiannopoulos will be in Phoenix for a charity dinner at a "secret location" on Friday night and will give a speech at the Free Speech Arizona Symposium on Saturday.
The symposium is being hosted by the United Liberty Coalition, described on its website as “a passionate group of patriots who are compelled by honor and duty to uphold our constitutional rights and great American values.”
The group has also been struggling to find a venue.
Originally, the symposium was advertised as taking place at the Rawhide Event Center at Wild Horse Pass.
“Rawhide Western Town and Event Center is not the location for the United Liberty Coalition’s ‘Free Speech AZ’ event on [Saturday]. The event is not taking place at this venue. If you have any questions regarding the event and its actual location, please contact the United Liberty Coalition directly.”
So we did. Shelby Busch of the United Liberty Coalition wrote in an email that the group had reached out to “at least 65” venues, 62 of which said no.
“We know that at least 20 of them pulled out or denied use because of fear of retaliation and violence,” she wrote. “A few of them denied us because they researched Milo and decided they did not want to be involved because of what they have seen on the news.”
Others agreed to host the event, only to cancel when they realized that Yiannopoulos would be there, she said.
“We have had a few actually draw up contracts and then later refund us or cancel agreements,” Busch wrote. “Some of these venues voiced support for us even after reluctantly canceling due to pressure or fear.”
“Several opposing groups are working aggressively to deny us our right to assemble and deny our freedom of speech," she continued. "Ironically, it these same groups’ ignorant hypocrisy that will demand their right to assemble and their right to free speech in order to protest us exercising those same rights. They are endangering the right to assembly and free speech for everyone.”
The United Liberty Coalition is “saddened by some of the aggressive actions these groups have taken by attacking venues, guests, and even charities that were only to accept a donation from proceeds," Busch said.
"I would like to add that we never thought that our wonderful Arizona community would be home to such divisive, intolerant, and hateful groups that foster complete disregard for the rights of others.”
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As the Arizona Republic reported on Monday, the symposium is now scheduled to take place on Saturday at a “yet-undisclosed location in Glendale” that will be announced 48 hours before the event.
The secrecy, Busch said, is intended to protect the owners of the venue as well as the event’s speakers and attendees.
What could that mystery location be? Suggestions we received on Twitter included Glendale Community College, the Civic Center, one of the mega-churches, the landfill, and “a friend from high school’s basement.”
We’ve reached out to Yiannopoulos’ team, and will update this post if they respond.