Ann Coulter cancels speech at Berkeley amid safety dispute

Posted May 06, 2017

Several blocks away on campus, several dozen UC Berkeley police and other local law enforcement officers stood by in Sproul Plaza, lined with orange barricades in anticipation of demonstrations that had yet to materialise by late afternoon. "If the police do their job today, we can just sit here and watch", he said, adding that he and his friends were not there to provoke or instigate.

"You have Linda Sarsour giving a speech at CUNY", he said, referring to the co-chair of the Day Without a Woman Protest.

On its Facebook page, the group calls itself a fraternal organization aimed at "reinstating a spirit of Western chauvinism during an age of globalism and multiculturalism". It said it support minimal government and is also "anti-political correctness, anti-racial guilt, pro-gun rights, anti-Drug War, closed borders".

On Wednesday, free speech took a huge hit when conservative author/commentator Ann Coulter cancelled her speaking engagement at UCB after YAF unfortunately had to pull out because of safety concerns on campus.

In emails to The Associated Press on Wednesday, Coulter confirmed that her planned speech on illegal immigration, followed by a question-answer session, was canceled. "I thought I might stroll around the graveyard of the First Amendment".

The free speech standards at Berkeley are that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran was able to go speak there without incident, yet the university is afraid of Ann Coulter.

CORNISH: I feel like I've been hearing a lot about the back and forth about whether Ann Coulter would actually speak at Berkeley.

But even without the conservative commentator's event, the university and the city of Berkeley had braced for dueling protests that they feared could become violent.

As they did with David Horowitz, and in behavior they repeated with Ann Coulter, administrators violated the content-neutrality requirement for free speech, instead penalizing groups that invite conservative speakers with onerous time, place, and manner restrictions, as well as arbitrary and onerous "security" fees that effectively served as a speech tax on certain, unwelcome speech.

"This university is not a battlefield", he says.

Berkeley's reputation as one of the country's most liberal universities, in one of America's most liberal cities, has made it a flashpoint for the nation's political divisions in the era of Donald Trump. "On college campuses, that means that the best way to combat hateful speech is through counter-speech, vigorous and creative protest, and debate, not threats of violence or censorship". It is certainly inequitable that the victims of the protestors-the groups who sponsor the speakers whose events are disrupted-now have to bear the cost for the actual or imagined unlawful behavior of protestors who have chose to suppress thought they hate.

Similar violent clashes also erupted at the same site, a public park, on March 4.

In February, protesters opposed to an appearance by Milo Yiannopoulos, then a senior editor for the conservative Breitbart News website, set fires, broke windows and clashed with police on campus, prompting the cancellation of his speech.

Earlier Thursday, UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks and Mayor Arreguín issued a joint statement, saying they had worked to find solutions to allow Coulter to safely speak at the campus.

Police and university officials say they're bracing for trouble Thursday whether or not she decides to show.

CORNISH: Richard, UC Berkeley has this reputation of being a home for dissent, certainly where free speech is valued.