Despite the University of California, Berkeley having cancelled “Ann Coulter’s Thursday appearance on campus, event organizers are “pressing ahead,” regardless.
The Berkeley College Republicans’ external vice president, Naweed Tahmas, told Newsweek that “whether it’s by microphone or megaphone, she will be speaking in Berkeley.”
Tahmas, 20, worked with Bridge USA and the Young America’s Foundation earlier this year to invite Coulter, a commentator and best-selling author who’s caused controversy with her remarks on topics like immigration and President Donald Trump, to campus. The event was initially scheduled for Thursday, but the school called off the speech last week because it said it didn’t have any sufficiently secure venues available.
The decision came after a February protest in which black bloc protesters caused $100,000 worth of damage, setting fires and smashing windows, as ex-Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos prepared to speak on campus. A separate, off-campus anti-Trump rally turned violent and led to 20 arrests on April 15.
The university offered to reschedule Coulter’s talk for this fall or May 2, but organizers like Tahmas rejected the delay. In their lawsuit, student leaders argue that Berkeley is attempting to “restrict and stifle speech of conservative students whose voices fall beyond the campus political orthodoxy.”
“Of course we expected there to be some resistance,” Tahmas, a political science junior, tells Newsweek. “[What] is deeply troubling is the resistance isn’t just coming from students, it’s coming from the administration.”
The cancelling of Coulter’s speech is particularly disconcerting and downright hypocritical considering the Berkeley campus is where “the Free Speech Movement enabling students’ political self-expression was founded” back in December 1964 when “about 800 people, inspired by the civil rights movement and protesting a school ban on political activity on campus, were arrested after a sit-in at Sproul Hall.”
Tahmas says that if the university doesn’t provide a room for Ann’s speech to take place in, then “for all we know, Ann Coulter will be speaking on the Sproul steps where the Free Speech Movement started.”
That would be a fitting venue, indeed.
Update, April 26:
Ann Coulter announced earlier today that she will no longer be appearing at Berkeley. That’s because the conservative group that sponsored her speech has now withdrawn their support over concerns for her safety.
“There will be no speech,” she told Reuters. “I looked over my shoulder and my allies had joined the other team.”
“It’s a sad day for free speech,” Coulter told The New York Times. “Everyone who should believe in free speech fought against it or ran away.”
Young America’s Foundation, the group that had sponsored Coulter’s planned speech Thursday, said, “Berkeley made it impossible to hold a lecture due to the lack of assurances for protections from foreseeable violence from unrestrained leftist agitators.”
“Berkeley should be ashamed for creating this hostile atmosphere,” the group added in a statement, noting the school police’s “stand-down” policy.