Organizers of an event at the University of California Berkeley with conservative firebrand Ann Coulter are fearful of more violence from left-wing anarchist groups, following the riots that took place before an event with former Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos last month.
The event, which is scheduled to take place in April, was organized by the nonpartisan student political group BridgeCal and the university’s College Republican group. Plans include a talk on immigration followed by a question-and-answer session. It will also be sponsored by the Young America’s Foundation, who will pay the majority of Coulter’s $20,000 speaking fee.
— YAF (@yaf) March 28, 2017
However, one of the event’s organizers, Pranav Jandahyala, told CBS San Francisco that the group are “pretty apprehensive right now about everything,” but “truly believe [they] can put on a great event.”
The rioting before Yiannopoulos’s event in February received worldwide attention, as left-wing anarchists destroyed campus property; smashed local ATMs and bank windows; looted a Starbucks; attacked Trump supporters; pepper-sprayed innocent individuals; and set fires in the street. Others spray painted the words “Kill Trump” on storefronts.
This time, however, organizers plan to provide more robust security, to honor the tradition of free speech at Berkeley since the Free Speech Movement of the 1960s.
“This time we are definitely going to push them to provide more security than they did last time. More officers on the ground instead of in the balcony,” Jandahyala said.
In a statement, UC Berkeley said that Coulter’s invitation “in no way suggests our endorsement of a particular point of view, and we will continue to affirm our commitment to the values of diversity, equality, and tolerance that underlie the greatness of Berkeley and, indeed, of our nation.”
However, the university did reaffirm its commitment to free speech, stating that it does not prohibit events “based on a generalized concern that a speaker’s message may trigger disruptions.”
Jandahyala also added that the event will be a chance to ignite heated discussions, where attendees will have the opportunity to challenge Coulter’s views.
“So what I challenge you to do is actually confront her. If she comes to speak on campus and there’s no challenge to her viewpoint and people resort to violence and maybe she doesn’t speak, her views go unchallenged,” he continued.