Over the past six months, the University of California at Berkeley has been the scene of vigorous political action and protests as progressive demonstrators have rioted, set fires, vandalized school property and intimidated students and teachers alike.
Their actions have forced the institution to cancel planned speeches by conservative speakers such as writer and commentator David Horowitz and former Breitbart News editor Milo Yiannopoulos.
All of the violence and the event cancellations are ironic, because during the 1960s, the Berkeley campus was regarded as a bastion of free speech after students forced the school to accept political expression on campus in 1964.
Now, another conservative speaker, author Ann Coulter, has had unfair restrictions placed on a previously scheduled appearance on the university’s campus. The group that was sponsoring the engagement, the Young America Foundation, cancelled that speaking event as well.
“When the Young America 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,” read a recent blog post from the group.
“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 president of the Young America Foundation (YAF), Ron Robinson, described the situation on the college campus as “a circus.”
“As a parent and a taxpayer, I want the next generation to learn in an educational environment, not a circus,” stated Robinson. “I had the misfortune of being in a leftist riot as a student, and I wouldn’t want to put my children or anyone else’s children into that situation without assurances that law enforcement would protect them.”
On April 25, YAF announced that “The Young America Foundation will not be moving forward with an event at Berkeley on April 27 due to the lack of assurances for protections from foreseeable violence from unrestrained leftist agitators. Berkeley should be ashamed for creating this hostile atmosphere… Ms. Coulter may still choose to speak in some form on campus, but the Young America Foundation will not jeopardize the safety of its staff or students.”
At a brief press conference, lawyer Harmeet Dhillon called the school’s policies on what is acceptable speech “infinitely malleable” before slamming Berkeley mayor Jesse Arreguin for sympathizing with and coddling the masked protesters.
On a segment on San Francisco Bay Area television channel KTVU, the mayor said of Yiannopoulos, “I do think he is a white nationalist… I think that we probably shouldn’t be using labels, but he [Yiannopoulos] announced I think that he’s going to be funding a scholarship for white men and has said a lot of hateful things about women, about minorities and about Muslims. I think that his speech frankly is hate speech, personally, but he does have a constitutional right to be heard.”
Dhillon took issue with the finger-pointing at the school.
“If the mayor of Berkeley cannot maintain control of his city, the governor should call the National Guard, because that’s a serious public health issue,” he claimed.
Though UC Berkeley promises its students an environment that promotes free debate and the free exchange of ideas, it breached this promise through the repressive actions of university administrators and campus police, who have systematically and intentionally suppressed constitutionally-protected expression.
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.
Coulter indicated she would still be traveling to the school in an attempt to speak anyway, possibly in a different location other than the school’s outdoor Sproul Plaza, where the free speech actions of the 1960s took place. UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks acknowledged that the Plaza may inherently be unsafe due to its outdoor location.
“If somebody brings weapons, there’s no way to block off the site, or to screen them,” stated Dirks, commenting that officials at the school understand that some of the protesters, such as those that are part of the group known as Black Bloc, understand how to infiltrate crowds and use them as a shield. “In an open space, you have almost no control over that,” he said. “The challenges are immense.”
Coulter rejected the school’s offer of a different speaking date because it would have been when many students are away from campus.
For his part, Dirks recalled that when the host of television’s Politically Incorrect program, Bill Maher, was to speak at the school, protesters threatened to shut down the event, but Dirks insisted that Maher come anyway.
When Milo Yiannopoulos arrived for his own speaking engagement, however, despite 90 police officers being present, demonstrators began breaking doors and windows within 15 minutes of Yiannopoulos’ being on campus. “We’re getting hit from both sides,” Dirks said.
Pranav Jandhyala, who heads the Berkeley College Republicans, said one of the issues he wants Coulter to discuss is immigration. “It’s an issue that hits home for many of our students,” said Jandhyala.
“Berkeley is a sanctuary city. We have many undocumented immigrant students. That’s why it seemed like a good issue to put on the table. UC Berkeley can represent the liberal point of view very well. So what we were trying to do with Coulter was to bring in an opposing view to have a dialogue about it.”
~ Liberty Planet