UC Berkeley has canceled a scheduled speech by conservative icon Ann Coulter over fears that it may spark further protests.
The school was at the epicentre of heated riots in February when conservative firebrand Milo Yiannopoulos was invited to speak on campus. Fights also broke out around its campus last week when pro- and anti-Trump protesters clashed during an event at Civic Center Park.
In light of these events, university officials said in a letter to the campus Republican group that had invited Coulter to speak that it had canceled her speech over worries that it may fuel backlash the way Yiannopoulos’ scheduled appearance had. The same college Republican group had invited Yiannopoulos to speak in February, but his invitation was also rescinded amidst the violence that news of his planned appearance prompted.
After her speech was canceled, Coulter told The Washington Post in an email that UC Berkeley had been trying to force her to pull out of her appearance by “imposing ridiculous demands,” but that she complied with “all of their silly requirements.”
Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof told The Post that although it had not been in contact with Coulter, it had been in touch with the campus group that invited her to speak. “Everything we’re doing is so the speaker and students can actually exercise their rights without disruption,” Mogulof said. “It’s unfortunate that people who think the university’s efforts to keep students and the speaker herself safe are ‘silly.'”
Coulter said those requirements included that she make her speech in the middle of the day, that the event only be open to students, and that the venue she’d be speaking at wouldn’t be announced until the last minute. She had planned to speak to students about immigration.
Coulter said that she believes her right to free speech “has been unconstitutionally banned” by the “public, taxpayer-supported UC-Berkeley.”
She continued: “They just up and announced that I was prohibited from speaking anyway … I feel like the Constitution is important and that taxpayer-supported universities should not be using public funds to violate American citizens’ Constitutional rights.”
University officials said they were initially unaware of Coulter’s invitation because the campus Republican group had not informed the university it was inviting her. They said they found out about the event after reading about it in newspapers.
Coulter said in her email that she is still planning on speaking at the university, and the spokesman for Young America’s Foundation, a conservative national group that helped organise the event, said Coulter is planning to speak on April 27.
“If Berkeley wants to have free speech, they are going to get it,” the spokesman, Spencer Brown, said.
Berkeley officials said that they were not cancelling Coulter’s appearance because of her controversial views. “It has nothing to do with anyone’s political views. We believe in unqualified support to the First Amendment. But we also have an unqualified focus on safety of our students,” Mogulof said. “We are going to be making a concerted effort to explain the reasons behind this.”