Coulter's Berkeley speech canceled, police prep for violence

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Some in the pro-Coulter crowd engaged in a brief shouting match with counter-demonstrators who confronted them on the edge of a Berkeley city park several blocks from campus late in the afternoon, but police managed to keep the two sides apart.

The Berkeley College Republicans who had invited Ann Coulter to the University of California, Berkeley confirmed the group cancelled her planned speech over safety concerns. Troy Worden, left, president of the Young Republicans and their attorney Harmeet Dhillon, right, talk with the media during a press conference held by the Berkeley College Republicans in Sproul Plaza.

Conservative pundit Ann Coulter has become the face of free speech this month and today she may push her First Amendment rights and "swing by to say hello" to supporters at the University of California Berkeley.

"Many of the individuals and organizations which planned to protest Ann Coulter's appearance or support it still intend to come to campus", UC Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof said.

Coulter said she might still visit Berkeley, long a bastion of liberal student activism, on Thursday as originally scheduled, but would not deliver an address in which she was expected to present a conservative critique of pro-immigration policies.

Multiple university officials said they supported her right to free speech and welcomed her to campus, but needed to guarantee safety to their students amid threats of violence surrounding the event.

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"I'm so sorry for free speech (being) crushed by thugs", Coulter posted on Twitter in announcing that she had abandoned efforts to find a campus venue where she could speak Thursday. But she still hinted that she might show up there anyway, telling Fox News, "I think I'm still going to Berkeley, but there will be no speech".

There have been an increasing number of violent encounters at UC Berkeley between far-left and far-right groups following the rioting which forced the cancellation of an on campus speech by former Breitbart writer and commentator Milo Yiannopolous in February.

Police and university officials say they are bracing for possible trouble, citing intelligence and online chatter by groups threatening to instigate violence.

Hannity then asked her whether the opposition she faced at the California university was a sign of a growing trend of anti-conservative rhetoric. She told Florida-based radio station 850 WFTL on Wednesday, "I still wanted to do it but I'm running out of options here".

Fearing a return to violent protests that roiled campuses in the 1970s, colleges and universities in Vermont and across the nation are reexamining how to protect free speech while keeping students and employees safe in a time of political polarization. As Peter Beinart points at The Atlantic, if Middlebury students take the opposition to same-sex marriage as a form of hate speech, what's to stop them from shutting down nearly any Republican speaker from having a voice on campus - including fellow students?

"They shouldn't engage protesters, that they should just make their way from where they parked to our event, and we'll have ushers to help people if they need it", she said.

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Organisers the Young America's Foundation (YAF) and Berkeley College Republicans indicated they would sue the university.

Coulter's frustration is understandable, but there was virtually zero chance that she would have been able to lead the kind of productive, interactive session she had envisioned.

City officials said they will continue to develop strategies to ensure safety for all who attend demonstrations.

"This is a university, not a battlefield", Dirks said in the letter.

"We're anxious about it turning into a huge battle between her security and conservative militia and antifascists and others", Pranav Jandhyala, founder of a nonpartisan campus club called BridgeCal, told The Post. But the idea of censorship should be alarming to anyone who cares about free speech rights.

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