The University of California, Berkeley, canceled a speech by author Ann Coulter and a few short days later received a lawsuit. Two organizations are fighting back and filed a suit that accuses the university of trying to restrict speech on their campus.
The action comes after Coulter’s appearance this week was canceled. The University claims they canceled due to specific threats by a local anarchist group, which thus threatened their campus security, says the NY Times.
Violation of the Right to Free Speech?
Critics feel the university is limiting all students from their rights to freedom of expression. Attorney Harmeet Dhillon leads the legal team behind the lawsuit. As a San Francisco attorney, Dhillon represented Berkeley College Republicans and filed the lawsuit with the United States District Court for the city.
Dhillon is a committeewoman to the Republican National Convention in California and served as a chairwoman of the California Republican Party. Therefore, she is no stranger to the opposition her party has experienced in California — a highly democratic state.
Leading universities in California, including UC Berkeley, are considered one of the founders of free speech movements. In fact, they have had numerous rallies against limiting a person’s right to free speech, but now they are accused of restricting such rights.
Multiple clashes on campus and downtown Berkeley between far-right and far-left protestors sparked the university’s cancellation of Ms. Coulter’s talk, especially when anarchist groups threatened to do the same at the Coulter speech, reports The Washington Post.
Coulter reached out to the school and offered solutions. She states that schools must expel students that engage in violence or try to stop her speech — instead of the university canceling the presentation. However, the solution was not viable to the university, and they canceled.
Berkeley is the epicenter of ideas, but they are also one of the more intolerant schools in the country. UC Berkeley seems to enjoy using the cover of violence to suppress the right to free speech on their grounds, says CNN.
In the lawsuit, Dhillon and her team require that the college allows speakers of their choosing on campus through the Berkeley College Republicans, who initially invited Coulter to speak. Also, the College Republicans and the Young America’s Foundation are entitled to damages that arose from their constitutional rights violations. Furthermore, legal costs are requested to be paid by the university.
University spokespeople stick by their story that the speech was terminated due to threats of violence. However, they have made it clear that Ann Coulter is welcome to their campus once they have law enforcement professionals capable of stopping yet another violent protest during her speech.
Last week, the University did offer Coulter an alternative date in May, but the college Republicans denied that request because it was a week of study for finals just before the end of the term.
The university claims they received threats from around the world that promised violence if Coulter gave her speech. However, these letters have not been released.