Far-right activist Milo Yiannopoulos captures spotlight during 20-minute Berkeley rally

Far-right speaker Milo Yiannopoulos appears at University of California, Berkeley, even though a weeklong conservative free speech showcase was scrapped Reuters

Far-right speaker Milo Yiannopoulos made a brief appearance at University of California, Berkeley, after a week-long conservative free-speech showcase was scrapped at the famously liberal college.

The official event, called Free Speech Week, was cancelled on Saturday (23 September) by the university's conservative student group Berkeley Patriot, after it generated huge controversy at the institution.

But Yiannopoulos, who had been invited to speak by Berkeley Patriot on Sunday (24 September), said he would turn up anyway.

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The alt-right provocateur, who regularly speaks out against women's and minority rights, was escorted by ranks of police as he made his way onto the campus.

Security only let around 100 people through metal detectors to the main campus plaza to listen to Yiannopoulos. A larger crowd of protesters against him were kept cordoned off from the plaza.

The plaza holds special significance in the history of the university as it was the centre of campus activity during the 1960s free speech movement.

Wearing sunglasses and an American flag hoodie under a denim jacket, Yiannopoulos spoke without a microphone, said a prayer, led a rendition of the 'Star Spangled Banner', before being whisked away in a car. The whole appearance lasted about twenty minutes.

He wrote on Instagram: "I did what I said I would do. I showed up. Sorry to the hundreds of people the police refused to let in."

The University said there were no injuries and at around seven arrests, in and around the campus, most of which were for weapons offences.

Campus police Chief Margo Bennett estimated that the university spent roughly $800,000 on security.

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Berkeley's reputation as a liberal stronghold and the birthplace of the free speech movement has made the city and campus flashpoints for the country's political divisions since the election of Republican President Donald Trump.

In February, violent protesters blocked the former Breitbart editor from making a speech at the university.

He lost his $250,000 book deal later that month after video was leaked that showed the alt-right poster boy appearing to defend paedophilia.

The book deal received backlash since its announcement in January, with many on social media threatening to boycott the publisher, Simon & Schuster.

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Yiannopoulos appeared to endorse relationships in which "older men help young boys to discover who they are".

The firebrand gained notoriety after he was banned from Twitter last year for inciting a wave of racist trolls on to Ghostbusters star Leslie Jones.

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