UC Berkeley Sued Over Ann Coulter's Planned Visit to Campus

Ann Coulter - Comedy Central Roast of Rob Lowe - Getty - H 2017
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Young America's Foundation and Berkeley College Republicans claim that the university discriminated against the conservative commentator.

The conservative groups trying to bring Ann Coulter to UC Berkeley sued several university administrators on Monday, including president Janet Napolitano, the chancellor and the three people who head the university campus police department.

"This case arises from efforts by one of California's leading public universities, UC Berkeley — once known as the 'birthplace of the Free Speech Movement' — to restrict and stifle the speech of students whose voices fall beyond the campus political orthodoxy," states the lawsuit, filed on behalf of Young America's Foundation and Berkeley College Republicans.

The lawsuit says Berkeley administrators are using a "recently adopted, unwritten and unpublished policy" restricting when and where "high-profile" speakers may appear, and that the result of the policy is "the marginalization of the expression of conservative viewpoints on campus."

The lawsuit, filed by attorney Harmeet Dhillon, says that conservative speakers must adhere to rigid demands — known as the "High-Profile Speaker policy" — that are easily met by liberal speakers but are difficult to meet for conservatives, who are in the minority at famously left-leaning Berkeley. The lawsuit uses the example of former Mexican President Vincente Fox, who spoke without incident at Berkeley this month.

"Defendants freely permitted the expression of non-conservative viewpoints by notable, liberal speakers addressing the same contentious topic Ms. Coulter planned to address — illegal immigration," says the lawsuit.

The university has also said on several occasions that it needs to move the time and venue for Coulter's appearance so that campus police can protect her and the students, as riots have ensued on numerous occasions at Berkeley since the election of President Donald Trump, including when firebombs were used ahead of a planned appearance by Milo Yiannopoulos in February.

"Defendants freely admit that they have permitted the demands of a faceless, rabid, off-campus mob to dictate what speech is permitted at the center of campus during prime time, and which speech may be marginalized, burdened, and regulated out of its very existence by this unlawful heckler's veto," the lawsuit states.

Coulter is planning to speak at Berkeley on Thursday, April 27, the day the two groups invited her to do so, but administrators canceled her appearance and moved her to a new venue the following week, when students aren't in class because they are studying for finals, which take place the week after that.

Coulter told The Hollywood Reporter she will speak Thursday, whether or not she has permission from university administrators or campus police.

The lawsuit lays out what plaintiffs claim is a pattern of abuse against conservative speakers, going into great detail while describing "the Milo Event," when "dozens of black-clad, masked agitators and demonstrators (self-styled 'antifa,' short for 'anti-fascist'), appearing to act in concert, set fires and threw objects at buildings in downtown Berkeley near the campus."

The lawsuit said that police "appeared to obey a stand-down order that required the officers not to intervene or make arrests in the many physical altercations that occurred between the violent mob and those seeking to attend the Milo Event."

Previous to Monday's lawsuit, in fact, Berkeley's chief counsel wrote a letter to Dhillon stating that the UC Police Department "received mounting intelligence that some of the same groups that previously engaged in local violent action also intended violence at the Coulter event."

Monday's lawsuit also says that Berkeley applied "the secret High-Profile Speaker policy" to cancel on David Horowitz, who was set to speak on campus either in February or March.

Besides Napolitano, the defendants in the lawsuit are chancellor Nicholas Dirks, interim vice chancellor of student affairs Stephen Sutton, associate vice chancellor and dean of students Joseph Greenwell, UCPD police chief Margo Bennett, UCPD operations division Capt. Alex Yao and UCPD patrol Lt. Leroy Harris.