Officials at the University of California at Berkeley, who this week were sued for trying to shut down a speech scheduled on campus Thursday by conservative pundit Ann Coulter, apparently will have their wish fulfilled.
“There will be no speech,” Coulter told Reuters in an email. “I looked over my shoulder and my allies had joined the other team.”
“I’m very sad about Berkeley’s cancellation, but my sadness is greater than that. It is a dark day for free speech in America,” she tweeted.
She was referencing a decision by one of the sponsoring groups, Young America’s Foundation, to remove its support based on the university’s decision not to provide a reasonable level of protection from violent protesters.
The issue centers on the mostly organized and sometimes paid rioters who have been traveling from event to event across the country to protest the election of Donald Trump.
When YAF scheduled Coulter’s speech, the university immediately put a stop it, citing its recent experience with campus speakers. In February, a speech by libertarian Milo Yiannopoulos was canceled amid violent protests, and a scheduled speech by conservative scholar and commentator David Horowitz was canceled due to the university’s “Orwellian demands.”
Reuters reported Coulter still may visit the campus but not give a speech.
YAF had to withdraw, according to the Gateway Pundit blog, because the school planned to have security officers under a “stand-down” order in which they would only intervene if a life was in imminent danger.
“When Young America’s Foundation confirmed Ann Coulter would speak at UC-Berkeley as part of YAF’s nationwide campus lecture program on April 27, we assumed UC Berkeley would take all steps necessary to ensure the safety of students attending the educational event,” YAF explained.
“In the meantime we discovered that the University of California Police Department at Berkeley has an official ‘stand-down’ policy for any situation that develops on campus as long as the situation doesn’t involve the imminent loss of life, allowing the leftist thugs who have terrorized Berkeley’s campus to do so without consequence.”
The group cited a Washington Post report that “unsuccessfully attempted to frame the narrative as [a] potential battle between far-left and far right forces when, in fact, it has been far-left groups that have used violence and threats of violence against persons exercising their right to free speech, particularly the speech of those like Coulter who support Trump.”
“It goes without saying that the Young America’s Foundation isn’t afraid of a few red hats,” the group said. “The irony is that the UC-Berkeley gave birth to free speech protests some fifty years ago, long before many of these violent, anti-free-speech activists and assault-and-battery miscreants were even born.”
YAF warned that the leftists opposing Trump “are violent.”
“A February event at UC-Berkeley featuring Milo Yiannopoulos had to be cancelled due to violence from protesters advertising that they were ‘anti-Facists,’ when in fact they were anarchists using highly-organized, commando ‘Black Bloc’ tactics. When the smoke had cleared, these hoodlums had destroyed parts of the Berkeley campus to the tune of $100,000, and had outdone themselves within the City of Berkeley itself, causing nearly a half-million dollars of damage there.”
School officials had tried to cancel Coulter’s speech outright when it was first announced. Then they demanded the speech take place on their timetable at a location of their choosing.
School spokesman Nicholas Dirks on Wednesday blamed “outside groups.”
“This is a university, not a battlefield. The strategies necessary to address these evolving threats are also evolving, but the simplistic view of some – that our police department can simply step in and stop violent confrontations whenever they occur – ignores reality,” his statement said.
He said the school remains “ready” to welcome Coulter but officials will not “allow our students, other members of the campus community, and the public to be needlessly endangered by permitting an event to be held in a venue that our police force does not believe to be protectable.”
In some cases of recent left-wing violence against conservative students, it was discovered that school faculty members encouraged the resistance.
YAF had been joined by the Berkeley College Republicans in sponsoring Coulter’s speech. The two groups earlier this week sued the university’s president, Janet Napolitano, and several other officials.
The case accused them of shutting down the voices of conservative activists.
The suit seeks compensatory and punitive damages and a judicial declaration that the defendants violated the constitutional rights of the two organizations under the First and Fourteenth Amendments, by “selectively enforcing the High-Profile Speaker Policy against BCR and YAF.”
Those decisions, the lawsuit contends, unreasonably restricted the “time, place, and manner of political speech” and resulted in a ban on the “expression of conservative viewpoints on the UC Berkeley campus.”
The lawsuit also named as defendants Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks, Interim Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Stephen Sutton, Associate Vice Chancellor Joseph Greenwell, university Police Chief Margo Bennett, Operations Division Captain Alex Yao and Patrol Lt. Leroy Harris.
The fracas began when Coulter announced she was scheduled to speak on the UC Berkeley campus, and school officials insisted she meet a list of demands.
They argued Coulter was so controversial she would need extra security. They later changed the date and time of her scheduled speech – so that it was planned at a time when students largely would be absent from campus – but Coulter refused the change.
WND reported a February melee on campus forced Yiannopolous to cancel his event. Rioters beat up Trump supporters, pepper-sprayed bystanders, looted a Starbucks, smashed bank windows and ATMs, and spray-painted “Kill Trump” on storefronts.
An April 12 speaking engagement by Horowitz was canceled when the school insisted he speak during a time when students are in class and in a room on a separate campus.
The lawsuit charges the university admitted in a letter it chooses to limit speech as a result of the “successful misconduct” of some off-campus interest groups.
“In other words, all one has to do to silence conservative speakers at U.C. Berkeley is to don a mask and become violent, or place anonymous phone calls to the administration threatening such violence,” the lawsuit said.
But the U.S. Constitution doesn’t permit hecklers to veto free speech.
The lawsuit argues: “Defendants freely admit that they have permitted the demands of a faceless, rabid, off-campus mob to dictate what speech is permitted at the center of campus during prime time, and which speech may be marginalized, burdened, and regulated out of its very existence by this unlawful heckler’s veto.”
The school used curfew rules, venue restrictions and time mandates against conservatives, while at the same time allowing left-wing speech from former Mexico President Vincente Fox and former Clinton adviser Maria Echaveste – many times on the same topics, the lawsuit said..
By those political tactics, the lawsuit alleges, “defendants have deprived YAF and BCR of their constitutional rights to free speech, due process, and equal protection. Accordingly, YAF and BCR seek temporary and permanent injunctive relief to prevent defendants from continuing to muzzle plaintiffs’ constitutionally protected speech, and to enjoin the defendants’ transparent attempts to stifle political discourse at UC Berkeley.”
The lawsuit alleges the university improperly adopted a secret “high-profile speaker policy” that gives campus officials virtually unlimited discretion to oppose speakers they don’t like.
During attempts to arrange the Horowitz speech, the lawsuit explains, school officials wanted attendance limited and that the location be kept secret “until hours before the event.”
The school also demanded nearly $5,800 for a “security fee.”
“Defendants are further allowing their subjective opinions about the anticipated reactions from critics – including a mob of masked, off-campus, ‘antifa’ – to dictate whether they choose to define a speaker to be subject to the High-Profile Speaker Policy, and there by impose a host of hurdles to their appearance that do not apply to speakers presumable welcome to the same critical mob (and university administrators),” the lawsuit said.