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Free Speech Debate Arises After UC Berkeley Campus Cancels Speaker

On Monday, April 24, the Berkeley College Republicans and the Young America’s Foundation filed a lawsuit against the University of California, Berkeley campus following their cancellation of Ann Coulter’s scheduled speech on campus. Coulter, a provocative conservative personality, was scheduled to speak on Thursday, April 27, but the address was cancelled due to security concerns.

Earlier this year, violent protests erupted on Berkeley’s campus preventing Milo Yiannopoulos, another provocative conservative personality, from giving an address on campus.  

The plaintiffs’ legal argument states that the campus’s “time, place, and manner” restrictions “result[s] in the marginalization of the expression of conservative viewpoints on campus by any notable conservative speaker” (p.2). The complaint notes that liberal speakers are openly allowed on campus to speak about the same topic as Coulter–illegal immigration. Further condemning the campus’s decision, the plaintiffs argue that the campus has allowed “the demands of a faceless, rabid, off-campus mob to dictate what speech is permitted…and which speech may be marginalized, burdened, and regulated out its very existence” (p. 2).  

Berkeley has since rescheduled Coulter’s speech to occur on May 2.  The plaintiffs, however, argue that the event will still be subject to discriminatory restrictions in its venue and its allotted time schedule.

University of California spokeswoman Dianne Klein states that Berkeley is in fact “committed to providing a forum to enable Ann Coulter to speak” (as cited by Svrluga & Wan, 2017, para. 10).  Klein went on to state that work is underway to “ensure that all members of the Berkeley and larger community — including Ms. Coulter herself — remain safe during such an event” (as cited by Svrluga & Wan, 2017, para. 10).

Via Twitter, Coulter announced that the lawsuit insists that she is provided with an “appropriate and safe venue” for her address “this Thursday.”    

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