Ann Coulter pledges to be in UC Berkeley's Sproul Plaza, a central outdoor gathering place on campus, sometime this Thursday — not indoors on campus next week, as is formally planned — and that means the university is already steeling itself for the inevitable protest and counter-protest rumble. According to the Washington Post, Berkeley police are readying for the likely showdown, which campus officials seem to think could be avoided for the most part with an indoor speech — but Coulter, likely knowing that, had this to say.
Nice day for an outdoor speech at Berkeley. https://t.co/PlbOP8YcDj— Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) April 24, 2017
An arch-conservative and always-Trumper, Coulter was invited to campus by student groups including the Berkeley College Republicans. UC administrators unwittingly fanned the flames of Coulter's base by first attempting to cancel her appearance for safety, then rescheduling it to campus "dead week" during which classes aren't held so that students can prepare for exams. Coulter objected, vowing to speak as originally planned.
Sproul Plaza is fully accessible to the public: “If somebody brings weapons, there’s no way to block off the site or to screen them,” UC Berkeley chancellor Nicholas Dirks tells the Washington Post. The original reason for the cancellation was over safety concerns related to similar, heated altercations, first over a planned speech from disgraced alt-right person Milo Yiannopoulos. Those concerns persist.
"We’re worried about it turning into a huge battle between her security and conservative militia and anti-fascists and others,” said Pranav Jandhyala, who leads a moderate campus group, Bridges USA, that cosigned the invitation to Coulter with campus Republicans. “To have that right in middle of Sproul doesn’t bode well for the image of our school or the city. We’re worried about violence and student safety and our own safety as well. It’s a huge safety concern.”
Coulter doesn't have an exact time she plans to speak, Jandhyala reveals. It should happen around about 4 p.m.— "She’s going to know Thursday morning and relay to us when she plans to come to Sproul,” Jandhyala said.
Meanwhile, the Berkeley College Republicans and the national Young America’s Foundation have filed a lawsuit against UC administrators including the system's president Janet Napolitano and Dirks. Per student paper the Daily Cal, students alleged that it's discriminatory “to restrict conservative speech on the UC Berkeley campus.”
"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,” the complaint reads.