Ann Coulter Says UC Berkeley Canceled Speech; University Denies Claim
Ann Coulter says she won’t be speaking at UC Berkeley on Thursday after all.
The conservative pundit took to her verified Twitter account Wednesday to say the university canceled her speech — something the school denied.
Coulter’s plan to speak had created a war of words on the campus roiled by recent protests.
A student group, the Young America’s Foundation, said Tuesday it had decided not to host the event, saying the university had created a hostile environment. The university said the speech would create security concerns and tried to move it to May 2.
Despite that, Coulter had held out hope Tuesday of speaking somewhere on campus — but didn’t know where. On Wednesday she announced the cancellation on Twitter. “I’m so sorry Berkeley canceled my speech,” she tweeted.
“I’m so sorry YAF acquiesced in the cancelation (sic). And I’m so sorry for free speech crushed by thugs.”
University officials could not immediately be contacted for comment Wednesday afternoon. But before Coulter tweeted, the university put out a news release that said, “Contrary to some press reports and circulating narratives, the UC Berkeley administration did not cancel the Coulter event and has never prohibited Ms. Coulter from coming on campus.”
The news release said the school decided not to provide a venue for the Thursday speech because of reports that violence would occur. It suggested the speech be given May 2 — but school is not in session that day, so Coulter and the YAF opposed that idea.
“This is a university, not a battlefield,” the news release said. “We must make every effort to hold events at a time and location that maximizes the chances that First Amendment rights can be successfully exercised and that community members can be protected.”
Coulter slammed the school in her tweets, saying in one: “I’m so sorry Berkeley had a different story every 20 minutes, which always was: No speech.”
Troy Worden, president of the Berkeley College Republicans, said Wednesday that the university didn’t provide a venue.
“In effect our free speech has been stifled because the university has decided not to assist us in making sure the event can occur successfully,” he said. “We aren’t going to have a dangerous event.”
The YAF and Berkeley College Republicans have filed a lawsuit that accuses the school of discriminating against conservative guest speakers by placing onerous time and location restrictions on their appearances. Berkeley, known for decades as a bastion of free speech, has seen protests turn violent in recent months.
Earlier this month, 21 people were arrested when anti-Trump and pro-Trump groups clashed in a city park.
In early March, 10 people were arrested when pro- and anti-Trump groups fought in Berkeley.
In February people took to the streets to protest an appearance by right-wing commentator Milo Yiannopoulos. The university said more than $100,000 in damage was done.
An attorney for the Berkeley College Republicans said the lawsuit will proceed.
“A lawsuit is a long-term remedy that is going to affect not just Ann Coulter’s speech but other speakers at UC Berkeley,” lawyer Harmeet Dhillon told reporters. “The goal is much larger than Ann Coulter’s speech here tomorrow.”
Dhillon said the university officials told her they wouldn’t provide a room but Coulter could speak at an outdoor venue. “The First Amendment requires equal access, not one level of open access for conservatives, out in the open, with attackers shouting us down,” she said, “and another level of access in a private, closed setting where people are allowed to enjoy an educational opportunity without interruption.”