UC Berkeley’s Ann Coulter Controversy Leads to Free Speech Lawsuit
The university says it tried to reschedule the speech due to security concerns.
4/27 Update: Ann Coulter announced on Wednesday that she won’t be speaking at UC Berkeley tonight.
Coulter tweeted: “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.”
The Young America’s Foundation, which helped arrange Coulter’s speaking event as part of it’s nationwide campus lecture program, has also pulled out of the event. Officials with the organization said in a statement that their decision was “due to the lack of assurances for protections from foreseeable violence from unrestrained leftist agitators.”
The YAF also said they booked the Coulter speech thinking UC Berkeley would “take all steps necessary to ensure the safety of students… 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 university said in a statement that officials proposed alternative dates for Coulter but she refused. “[T]he UC Berkeley administration did not cancel the Coulter event and has never prohibited Ms. Coulter from coming on campus.”
The Berkeley College Republicans filed a lawsuit against the University of California Berkeley on Monday in response to the school’s handling of a scheduled speech by conservative speaker Ann Coulter.
The lawsuit claims university administrators “systematically and intentionally suppressed constitutionally-protected expression” when they cancelled Coulter’s speech scheduled for April 27.
University officials cancelled the event because of safety concerns and offered to host the event at a safer location next week.
The student group’s lawsuit also listed the Young America’s Foundation as a plaintiff. The YAF is a national group that defends the First Amendment on school campuses.
The lawsuit lists UC System President Janet Napolitano, UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks and three campus police officials as defendants, reports the Washington Post.
UC spokeswoman Dianne Klein released a statement responding to the lawsuit saying in part that UC “is committed to providing a forum to enable Ann Coulter to speak on the Berkley campus. The allegation contained in the complaint filed by the Young America’s Foundation that Ms. Coulter is being prohibited from speaking because of her conservative views is untrue.”
Klein’s statement also noted that UC Berkeley has hosted conservative speakers in the past and is working to schedule a “mutually agreeable” visit from Ann Coulter.
“The campus seeks to ensure that all members of the Berkeley and larger community- including Ms. Coulter herself- remain safe during such an event,” the statement concluded.
UC Berkeley’s decision to cancel the speech and then offer to reschedule it came after a speech by controversial republican Milo Yiannopoulos was cancelled amid rioting on the campus in February.
That rioting caused $100,000 in damage to the campus and led President Donald Trump to threaten to pull federal funding for the public university if it did not allow free speech on its campus.
Monday’s lawsuit requests unspecified damages, attorney fees and a jury trial.