After university officials cancelled a scheduled appearance from Ann Coulter on campus, two conservative student organizations filed a federal lawsuit accusing the University of California, Berkeley of efforts to “restrict conservative speech” on campus.
The lawsuit, filed Monday by the Berkeley College Republicans and the Young America’s Foundation, claims the university is trying “to restrict and stifle the speech of conservative students whose voices fall beyond the campus political orthodoxy.”
“Though UC Berkeley promises its students an environment that promotes free debate and the free exchange of ideas, it had breached this promise through the repressive actions of University administrators and campus police, who have systematically and intentionally suppressed constitutionally-protected expression,” the lawsuit reads, noting that Berkeley was “once known as the birthplace of the Free Speech Movement.”
The legal action was brought by two student organizations, the Berkeley College Republicans and the Young America’s Foundation, in response to officials cancelling Coulter’s appearance on Thursday “on the grounds that specific threats by anarchist groups threatened security on campus,” The New York Times reported.
“Ann Coulter is welcome on this campus but at a time when we can provide a venue that law enforcement professionals believe to be protectable,” Dan Mogulof, a spokesman for the university, told the Times. He also said the university had received threats. “As individuals or part of a militia, they intend to come to the campus to support Ann Coulter. … Our concerns have only grown,” Mogulof said.
Coulter tweeted on Monday that she supports the lawsuit, which “demands appropriate & safe venue for my speech THIS THURSDAY,” and vowed the speech will go on. She also tweeted the weather forecast for Thursday.
Nice day for an outdoor speech at Berkeley. https://t.co/PlbOP8YcDj
— Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) April 24, 2017
Coulter, a staunch conservative, has aligned herself with white nationalists recently.
Last November, the author of books including In Trump We Trust: E Pluribus Awesome! and ¡Audios America!: The Left’s Plan to Turn Our Country Into a Third-World Hell Hole spoke to the annual “Writers Workshop” event put on by the white nationalist publishing house The Social Contract Press (TSCP). During the speech, Coulter attacked the 1965 Immigration Act and said her “epiphany” on immigration came after reading white nationalist Peter Brimelow’s 1992 National Review essay, “Time to ReThink Immigration?”
The lawsuit at Berkeley comes a week after Auburn University cancelled a speaking engagement from white nationalist Richard Spencer, who enlisted Klan attorney Sam Dickson to successfully challenge the school’s cancellation after paying $700 for the use of a university building. It is also the second time Berkeley has put restrictions on “conservative” speakers. Earlier this month, college Republicans say they were forced to cancel another speaking engagement by anti-Muslim activist David Horowitz after school officials ordered his speech to be held a mile from the center of campus.
The cancellation of Coulter’s appearance comes after a series of violent confrontations between far-right extremists and antifascist protesters at Berkeley. In February, protests surrounding an appearance on campus by former Breitbart News Tech Editor Milo Yiannopoulos caused around $100,000 in damages as demonstrators smashed windows, set fires and stormed buildings.
The lawsuit demands unstated damages, compensation for attorney fees, a trial by jury and an injunction against Berkeley from "restricting the exercise of political expression on the UC Berkeley campus."