First, it was on; then it was off, then it was back on — unofficially — and now it’s back on again (for now), maybe…
Such is the case with Ann Coulter’s speech at the University of California, Berkeley, which had been scheduled for Thursday, April 27. The University canceled the event in a letter to the Berkeley College Republicans which the Associated Press obtained “We have been unable to find a safe and suitable venue,” said the letter from Vice Chancellor Scott Biddy and Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Stephen Sutton. “Given current active security threats, it is not possible to assure that the event could be held successfully.”
While the security threats at Berkeley are quite real and demonstrated often, that is not an excuse for canceling the event. That is granting a heckler’s veto over constitutionally protected speech. In fact, political speech is the highest form of expression in our Republic, granted the most protection. The problem is that while the protections may be guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, it does nothing to facilitate someone standing in front of thugs with sticks and stones. For that we need police, and the police are administrative agencies, and so far, neither Berkeley’s mayor who controls the local force, nor California Governor Jerry Brown who controls the state policing authorities, are doing anything about it. In fact, based on this exchange seen at Saturday’s disgraceful display of law enforcement abandonment, it’s likely their orders are helping the thugs rather than promote the right to free political speech.
Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín admitted he grants a heckler’s veto on Monday in the wake of the riots against those supporting free speech. In an address on “Progressive Mayorship” at the Free Speech Movement Café (seriously), he said, “Public safety is our top priority, and that actually, I believe, takes precedence over freedom of speech.”
Following the Mayor’s statement, Ms. Coulter told Berkeley school officials that she would arrive at the school on the agreed-on date and time, and expected to speak as her contract specified. Berkeley then changed their tune and said they would allow Coulter to speak, but imposed onerous conditions on the new agreement. As such her speech would not take place within the next week, not in the evening, and not when students are in class, which sounded very much like a Dr. Seuss book, “Not here, there, not anywhere.”
And so, Ms. Coulter tweeted this:
Do not fall for b.s Berkeley press release claiming they “rescinded” cancelation. They added NEW, more burdensome condition on my const rts. https://t.co/bPMuVUEEMY
— Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) April 21, 2017
What’s the next move in this not-so-free speech game of chess? We shall see.