This story keeps barreling forward like either a freight train or an impending train wreck. We probably won’t know which until next Thursday. As of last night, the originally scheduled, then cancelled, then rescheduled speaking event at Berkeley featuring Ann Coulter was in transition. The school claimed they couldn’t come up with a “protectable” venue available on the scheduled date, but offered Coulter a more secure location she could use six days later. They were citing concerns over “very specific intelligence” of threats “that could pose a grave danger” to Coulter, the College Young Republicans who invited her or the inevitable gang of liberal fascist rock throwers who are going to show up. So… problem solved, right?
Nope. Coulter is still planning to arrive on schedule next Thursday. (New York Times)
The University of California, Berkeley, said Thursday that it would permit the conservative author Ann Coulter to speak on campus in early May, just one day after it canceled her appearance that had been scheduled for next week.
But Ms. Coulter rejected the university’s offer, saying it came with “burdensome” conditions, and insisted that she would show up and speak as originally scheduled next Thursday.
And late Thursday night, a lawyer for the Berkeley College Republicans, which invited Ms. Coulter to campus, threatened to sue the university unless it permits the speech to go ahead…
Before we get to the “burdensome conditions” in question, I wanted to remind everyone of what Allahpundit described as “the nuclear option” for Berkeley yesterday:
She was going to show up anyway and create a security clusterfark for them when the usual suspects inevitably started smashing windows. That was the nuclear option. Berkeley doesn’t care about bad press from the right; the fascist left wears that as a badge of honor. They don’t care about First Amendment lawsuits either. But if the town is going to burn on the 27th and they’re going to get sued by the victims for not having done more to provide security, then sure, they’ll spring into action and find a “protectable venue.”
With that in mind, there seem to be two chief objections to what Berkeley was offering as a compromise. First, the as-yet unknown venue probably wasn’t going to be big enough or accessible enough for the expected crowds. The bigger issue is that Berkeley was insisting that she finish speaking and begin clearing out of town by three in the afternoon. Their reason for that one is obvious; the rock and bottle hurling crowd of liberals are at least somewhat less likely to show up in broad daylight when they can more easily be identified, assuming the campus police ever decided to actually prosecute one of them. But they’ve taken to wearing hoods and masks for a lot of these attacks, so it’s tough to say how much that would actually slow them down.
From the other side of the coin, three in the afternoon is a time when a lot of people are still either in class or at work (if they have jobs) so attendance would likely be down. And on top of that, I don’t think we’re going entirely into tinfoil hat territory here to say that some of Coulter’s fed up supporters aren’t actually all that upset about the prospect of a fascist attack. In fact, some of them may be relishing the idea, simply for the chance to expose the tactics of the left for the world to see. (Assuming you could ever get CNN to run footage of it anyway.)
But if Coulter does indeed show up on Thursday to speak in the open air (incidentally, the least “protectable venue” imaginable there), what does that mean for the nuclear option? What they’re trying to avoid far more than any bad press is a lawsuit or criminal liability. Let’s roll the dice and say that she sets up a stage out on the quad next Thursday and the predictable fascist crowd shows up with bricks and Molotov cocktails leading to all hell breaking loose, some people being injured and property damaged. Is Berkeley off the hook? I suppose the threatened lawsuit from the YR sort of goes up in smoke at that point because they can tell a judge that they’d found a secure location available less than a week later but were spurned. But that’s just the free speech aspect question of whether or not Berkeley was going to allow her to come at all. Having gone out in public and said that they have credible evidence of a specific threat, aren’t they still responsible for stopping that threat and protecting everyone? So if someone is injured or, God forbid, killed, I’m guessing they’re still on the hook. As I said yesterday, they can’t really blame it on Coulter for the act of showing up and talking. That’s like telling a rape victim that she would have been fine if she hadn’t worn such a short skirt.
All in all, I think this still turns out to be Allahpundit’s “nuclear option” and there’s not much Berkeley can do to stop it short of physically blocker Coulter’s entrance to the campus. And if they do that, she wins and the the YR can move ahead with their lawsuit. Buckle up, campers. This ride may turn out to be exceptionally bumpy.