Young America’s Foundation, which had been sponsoring the speech, has now backed out because Berkeley won’t guarantee that appropriate security measures will be taken. It’s too dangerous to encourage people to attend. Rumors are swirling that Coulter’s going to try to speak in Sproul Plaza, ground zero for the “free speech movement” at Berkeley in the 60s, if no venue opens up by tomorrow evening, which has school administrators and local PD in a panic. Read this article; the tone is roughly the same as if Homeland Security had just moved to red alert due to fear of an imminent terror attack.
I’d bet that the event ends up being more chill than everyone fears. But given all the hype about violence this week, maybe “anti-fascists” will feel obliged to put on a show.
Sproul Plaza, site of the Free Speech Movement protests in the 1960s, would be both symbolic and logistically challenging for the university because anyone can be there. Dirks said that for an inside event, the university would have metal detectors and other ways to search for weapons, but security will be much more difficult in a public outdoor space.
“If somebody brings weapons, there’s no way to block off the site, or to screen them,” Dirks said, noting that officials realize that some of the demonstrators, such as those known as Black Bloc, understand how to penetrate the crowd and use it as a shield. “In an open space, you have almost no control over that,” he said. “The challenges are immense.”
Yes, that’s a real quote about potential reaction to a speech by Ann Coulter, who’s been doing her shtick on American TV more or less weekly since before some Berkeley students were born. Like I said yesterday, ultimately this is about territory: She can address three million people on Fox News virtually any time she wants, but try to address a few hundred on Berkeley’s turf and out come the torches.
One of the groups that invited Coulter to campus, the nonpartisan Bridge USA, is worried that it might not just be left-wingers who are ready to rumble tomorrow:
Jandhyala said his student group has been trying frantically to find an off-campus venue for Thursday, and he said he shares the concerns of university officials that Coulter’s appearance at Sproul — and the protests and counter-protests it likely would spark — could grow violent. But he said that Coulter and her representatives made clear in communication with him and other student organizers that she intends to go through with her plans to appear at the public plaza if no venue is provided.
“We’re worried about it turning into a huge battle between her security and conservative militia and antifascists and others,” Jandhyala said. “To have that right in the 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.”
It’s a reasonable fear. Trump supporters held a rally in Berkeley back in March and were confronted by counter-protesters, leading to fights. A month later, on Tax Day, 23 people were arrested when pro- and anti-Trump protesters squared off there. I haven’t seen anything about organized efforts by right-wingers to show up to tomorrow’s speech but the hype all but guarantees that some will be there. And Coulter will surely have private security of her own. It could be an old-fashioned left vs. right vs. cops vs. bodyguards donnybrook over whether Berkeley residents should have to stand for someone showing up in their town and declaring that unchecked illegal immigration might not be an unmitigated good.
Coulter claimed last night on Twitter that, contra the excerpt above, she hasn’t committed to speaking in Sproul Plaza. She’s still waiting on Berkeley to offer her a venue, which is the smart thing to do in terms of security. This is a game of chicken: She’s daring them to sanction her talk by giving her a room to speak in and they’re daring her to come to campus and take her chances in a public space, among the horde. Who blinks?
Update: All this, for this?
Ann Coulter said Wednesday that she is likely to cancel her planned appearance at the University of California, Berkeley, because she faced threats of violence and felt she was left without the support of local law enforcement who have said it cannot guarantee her safety.
Ms. Coulter, in a message to The New York Times, said, “It’s a sad day for free speech.”…
Without any support, Ms. Coulter said she could not go forward. “Everyone who should believe in free speech fought against it or ran away,” she said.
Odds of Trump tweeting that he’ll send in the National Guard to protect her: 50/50 at worst, I’d guess.
Update: Coulter’s out.
UPDATE: Conservative commentator Ann Coulter says she has canceled her speech planned for this week at UC Berkeley
— Reuters (@Reuters) April 26, 2017