What is the Berkeley Patriot, the student group organizing ‘Free Speech Week’?

The Berkeley Patriot/Courtesy

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UC Berkeley has been under the spotlight for “Free Speech Week,” but the student organization behind the event remains largely unknown.

The Berkeley Patriot editor in chief Mike Wright said the Berkeley Patriot is a student-run conservative online publication that aims to use Free Speech Week to expand its reach and promote free speech. The Berkeley Patriot was created over the summer to replace its predecessor, the California Patriot, according to Wright, who co-founded the revamped publication.

“Our main mission is to promote conservative values as well as cover issues that people across this country find important about the Berkeley community,” Wright said. “There’s a lot of things that are happening here that have importance in a national context, and we want to be able to cover those as well as issues that are important to students.”

The Berkeley Patriot is currently only producing online content via its new website, where it has published five articles as of press time. But the California Patriot, which was founded in 2000, produced hard copy magazines.

Content published in the California Patriot magazines ranged from campus-related stories, such as ASUC candidate endorsements, to state and national political commentary. On its website, the Berkeley Patriot also covers local and national news, including Ben Shapiro’s campus speaking event, the protest that took place in Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park on Aug. 27 and the concept of free speech.

Wright added that the Berkeley Patriot is planning to “be more news-orientated and break more stories” than the California Patriot.

The Berkeley Patriot news editor Pranav Jandhyala said that while the Berkeley Patriot is a conservative publication, it strives to be objective and unbiased. Recently, the Berkeley Patriot wrote an article about the lack of violence during Ben Shapiro’s speaking event on campus, saying that “for once in Berkeley, reason and civility defeated the forces of anarchy.”

Although Berkeley Patriot spokesperson Bryce Kasamoto confirmed that the publication is rebranding itself with its new name, it is still officially registered as a Registered Student Organization under the name of the California Patriot, according to CalLink and the ASUC Fiscal Year 2017-18 Budget.

“Our mission is essentially to provide objective news from UC Berkeley to the nation. We think UC Berkeley is a microcosm for news,” Jandhyala said. “We still abide by the same standards (as the California Patriot). There’s no image change that we’re really looking for.”

ASUC Chief Financial Officer Paul Cho said in an email that the 2017-18 academic year marks the third year in which the California Patriot has received funding from the ASUC.

According to the ASUC Fiscal Year 2017-18 Budget, the publication is receiving $800 in allocations from the ASUC this year. Previously, the publication requested $4,040 from the ASUC for the 2014-15 academic year but was only allotted $700, according to the ASUC 2014-15 Budget.

“Based from their application, we allocate the funding for that RSO for the next upcoming academic year,” Cho said in his email. “No organization has a set amount for them each year — it is always based on their application and our bylaws.”

Wright said the Berkeley Patriot became involved with Free Speech when Milo Yiannopoulos, whose campus event was canceled Feb. 1 due to violent protests on Sproul Plaza, contacted the Berkeley College Republicans about returning to campus. Wright said BCR was unable to host the event, so the Berkeley Patriot took the opportunity to expand its publication and recruit new writers by organizing Free Speech Week with Yiannopoulos.

The Berkeley Patriot is currently preparing for Free Speech Week, but plans to work toward a monthly print publication, Kasamoto said. He added that the Berkeley Patriot is currently composed of about 20 staff members.

Wright, Kasamoto and Jandhyala all emphasized that free speech is a key aspect of the Berkeley Patriot’s mission.

“We don’t want to seem like we support someone like Milo, because we don’t. We’re simply inviting him because free speech is protected,” Jandhyala said. “Obviously people will go ahead and make the statement that we’re on the far right, that we’re Nazi sympathizers, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth.”

Contact Danielle Kaye at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @danielledkaye.

A previous version of this article may have implied that Milo Yiannopoulos has not been invited to speak on campus before. In fact, Yiannopoulos was set to speak on campus in February, but his event was canceled due to protests.