Coulter's Berkeley speech canceled, police prep for violence

Troy Worden left president of the Young Republicans and their attorney Harmeet Dhillon right talk with the media during a press conference held by the Berkeley College Republicans in Sproul Plaza on the University

Berkeley, known as the home of the free speech movement, was under heavy police watch on Thursday as hundreds of people waving American flags and chanting US gathered in a park to protest a canceled appearance by conservative commentator Ann Coulter.

Officials at UC Berkeley said last week they feared renewed violence on campus if Coulter followed through with plans to speak.

Berkeley has become a flashpoint for free speech debate and the site of multiple protests since the election that have at times become increasingly violent, pitting far-right fascist groups and supporters of President Donald Trump and anti-fascist groups and local liberal activists. Later on Wednesday, conservative provocateur Ann Coulter said she was forced to cancel her speech, originally scheduled for Thursday, after the conservative groups who'd originally invited her backed out.

University officials said the Berkeley College Republicans erred by inviting Coulter without notifying campus officials in advance, as is required of all student groups, and by failing to submit to a "security assessment" to determine a suitable time and place for the event.

The university offered her an alternate date and venue for the planned appearance, but Coulter didn't want it, insisting that she'd show up on April 27 like she said she would because it's her way or the high way.

She left open the possibility of paying a visit to supporters at the school, long a bastion of liberal student activism and the Free Speech Movement protests of the 1960s.

The University of California, Berkeley, has reversed its decision to cancel an appearance by conservative firebrand Ann Coulter. But she still hinted that she might show up there anyway, telling Fox News, "I think I'm still going to Berkeley, but there will be no speech".

A police spokesman said at the press conference that they were bracing for possible violent protests even in Coulter's absence, and students could expect an increased police presence throughout the day.




The University of California, Berkeley says it's preparing for possible violence on campus whether Ann Coulter comes to speak or not.

For their part in the Coulter event, university officials disputed that they had cancelled her event. She told Florida-based radio station 850 WFTL on Wednesday, "I still wanted to do it but I'm running out of options here".

Berkeley has been sharp in its response, saying it tried to work with Ms. Coulter and that it supported her right to speak in a safe venue, but that they needed more time to find the appropriate space. San Francisco Bay Area station KTVU reports (http://bit.ly/2pqjmmm ) that they have removed signs throughout the park with graphic images in support of Milo Yiannopoulos, another conservative commentator whose speech at UC Berkeley was canceled earlier this year.

Late Tuesday, one of the sponsors of the talk, Young America's Foundation, appeared to back off from helping to host the event, saying the university had not met its demands to ensure the safety of students and those involved in the talk.

"But they don't have a safe space for a conservative", he stated.

The university, meanwhile, has said it's prepared for what may come. Particularly in light of this history, the university has underscored its responsibility to protect the safety of campus speakers, and administrators cited "very specific intelligence" of threats to both the speaker and students.

Among those lessons: The free-speech fights may never end. "Free speech may be the new clarion call of the far right, but the real subtext of those who try to disrupt institutions built on principles of openness and inclusion with violence is only barely disguised", he writes.

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