Ann Coulter’s Free Speech Ban Could Cost University Of California, Berkeley

The University of California at Berkeley may face a lawsuit if the institution fails to provide an adequate venue and suitable time for Ann Coulter’s planned speaking engagement on April 27.

The Berkeley College Republicans body had invited controversial conservative commentator Ann Coulter to Berkeley to discuss illegal immigration. On Wednesday college officials attempted to cancel the event, citing safety and security concerns as the basis for their decision.

“We have been unable to find a safe and suitable venue. Given current active security threats, it is not possible to assure that the event could be held successfully.”

University Chancellor, Nicholas B. Dirks, claimed that officials had received specific and credible intelligence concerning threats that could seriously endanger Coulter, her audience, and protestors’ safety if the event goes ahead.

Coulter, however, responded on Twitter with open defiance, saying that she would be going to Berkeley in spite of the college’s restriction.

“@AnnCoulter: I’m speaking at Berkeley on April 27th, as I was invited to do and have a contract to do.”

On Thursday night, while making an appearance on Fox News hosted by Sean Hannity, Coulter said that “You cannot impose arbitrary and harassing restrictions on the exercise of a constitutional right. None of this has to do with security.”

A representative for Berkeley College Republicans, Harmeet Dhillon, wrote to Berkeley’s interim Vice Chancellor, Stephen Sutton, to threaten a lawsuit if Coulter is not allowed to speak as planned on April 27. Dhillon declared the college’s decision as a violation of their constitutional right to free speech.

“It is a sad day indeed when the birthplace of the Free Speech Movement, is morphing before our eyes into the cemetery of free speech on college campuses.”

The Free Speech Movement (FSM) took place during 1964 to 1965 on the Berkeley campus. It was led by students Mario Savio, Jack Weinberg, Michael Rossman, George Barton, Brian Turner, Bettina Aptheker, Steve Weissman, Michael Teal, Art Goldberg, Jackie Goldberg, among others.

Mario Savio, leader of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement, is restrained by police as he walks to the platform at the University of California’s Greek Theater. [Image by Robert W. Klein/AP Images]

Dan Moguluf, a spokesperson for Berkeley, disclosed that Ann Coulter’s defiance of the university cancellation prompted Chancellor Dirks to go above and beyond in order to find a new venue that would be safer for the event to go ahead.

Following Dirks’ action, Berkeley official suggested a postponement to May 2, when they would be able to provide an appropriate and secure venue, as reported by the New York Times. However, Coulter said she could not acquiesce to the change of date as she is not available. Moreover, Coulter was concerned that attendance would be poor due to the college then being in the middle of what is known as Dead Week when classes are suspended so students can study for exams.

Berkeley has been the site of numerous violent clashes between far-right and far-left ideologies in recent months. Former Breitbart editor and avid Trump supporter, Milo Yiannopoulos, was hounded off campus by protestors that caused damaged to university property in a successful attempt to shut down the event.

Berkeley is in the hot seat now that college Republicans are threatening to sue for potential losses if Ann Coulter’s appearance is unable to take place. Furthermore, the threat of violent physical confrontations by far-left groups could cause a replay of February’s clashes at the Yiannopoulos event. The double faceted skirmish could potentially harm the college’s reputation for encouraging and facilitating free speech dialogues.

A fire set by demonstrators protesting a scheduled speaking appearance by ‘Breitbart News’ editor Milo Yiannopoulos burns on Sproul Plaza on the University of California, Berkeley campus. [Image by Ben Margot/AP Images]

Hoku Jeffrey, a graduate of Berkeley who acts as an organizer for a left-wing group, By Any Means Necessary, said that they “will not tolerate anti-immigrant bigotry or bigotry of any kind, which is the only thing she’s here to do.”

Wife of the late Mario Savio, Lynne Hollander Savio, commented on the campus clashes saying that she was disappointed in Berkeley’s “unconstitutional” censorship of Coulter’s free speech.

“I don’t think Ann Coulter has anything useful to say, but it was unconstitutional for the university to bar her from speaking.”

In an article for Taki Magazine, Gavin McInnes, a member of the alt-right student body Proud Boys, described a “Patriot’s Day” protest the group had organized in defense of Coulter’s appearance.

“On Saturday we held a rally in Berkeley to promote free speech. We knew there would be trouble so we came prepared to fight. We sang, ‘Glory, glory, hallelujah!’ They played Public Enemy. We were disarmed by the police. They were armed to the teeth. We won.

“There is a culture war going on, and it’s apoplectic idiots with nothing to say vs. perfectly sane people who want everyone to have their say. Our world includes them. They can go have a talk about how Nazis are lurking around every corner and Trump is Hitler… If you think there are two genders (as doctors do), if you don’t support gay marriage (over a third of Americans oppose it), if you think illegal aliens are illegal (as the law does), if you think women are different from men (as reality does), you are a Nazi and you need to be punched in the face. This kind of harassment works for a while. Sane people aren’t looking for trouble… However, when you burn down a gay immigrant’s talk because you think he’s a homophobic xenophobe, we start to question your cause.”

[Featured Image by Cliff Owen/AP Images]

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