This afternoon the Berkeley College Republicans (BCR) held a press conference on the Savio Steps in Sproul Plaza at UC Berkeley. This is also the location Mario Savio proclaimed the free speech movement in 1964. BCR spokesman Naweed Tahmas tried to echo the sentiment. He proclaimed that the BCR were starting a new free speech movement.
The BCR claims that the event they had, co-sponsored with Bridge USA, planned talk by Ann Coulter. It was cancelled because the university’s police department refused to ensure the safety of students and participants. They also say the lawsuit will continue. Their lawyer, Harmeet Dhillon, was on hand to discuss the lawsuit, and said they are pursuing an injunction to prevent the university from unequally applying rules and access.
This comes on the same morning Ann Coulter announced she would not be coming to speak on Sproul Plaza tomorrow as she had originally claimed. Coulter cited lack of support from the student organisations as a reason for her
The BCR lawsuit contends that the School cancelled the event, and that UC Berkeley and the Berkeley police created a “dangerous” environment for conservative speakers.
But the main group that organised the event has a different story. Bridge Cal President, Pranav Jandhyala, spoke to media after BCR’s press conference and contradicted many of their claims. 19yr old Pranav says the event was organised to facilitate dialogue between the left and right, but that BCR had hijacked the event and, with their lawsuit, turned it into a media frenzy. He says the event was never meant to test the limits of free speech, but that quickly became what it was about.
As to BCR’s claims about the timeline of events, he claims BCR is incorrect. When asked about a statement UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks sent out this morning to all students and the faculty, the lawyer representing BCR claimed unequivocally that the statement was a lie. She also claimed that it was a lie that the administration first heard about Coulter coming through the media.
Pranav says that the statement by Dirks was correct, and that in his opinion the University acted in good faith in their attempt to facilitate the event. According to him, the faculty adviser for Bridge Cal did not send a notice to the administration prior to Young America’s Foundation announcing the event. He says the school had attempted (and continues in its attempts) to work with the student groups to find a date and venue to host Coulter, but that the original April 27th date was not feasible due to security concerns. He said, “The school is doing everything they can as an administration.” The security concerns are in relation to several clashes between right-wing groups that targeted Berkeley and Antifa.
Pranav did criticise Berkeley Police for being too inflexible, however, and that the stand down order meant to prevent police brutality complaints is problematic. He further stated that outside groups are “using Berkeley as a battlefield” and that BCR was working in tandem with manipulators that seek to portray the left in a negative light and exploit the violence. He cited the extreme, provocative rhetoric that BCR uses on their various social media.
Despite Bridge organising the event, he claims Coulter and YAF made no effort to reach out to them, preferring to deal only with BCR. About their motivations for inviting her in the first place, he said, “Ann Coulter represents what much of the country believes” and that the goal was to expose people to those beliefs in an atmosphere of open debate and conversation.
When questioned, BCR representatives and Harmeet Dhillon refused to tell Conatus News who was funding the lawsuit, or if it was being undertaken pro bono, but said they are ready to take it past the appeals court level, presumably meaning to the Supreme Court.
5:23pm PST Update
Alt-Right protesters have promised to show up at Berkeley tomorrow. Others have indicated the possibility of arriving including Baked Alaska, Lauren Southern, and Gavin Mcinnes. Other prominent media and activist personalities are likely to turn up.