UC Berkeley Backpedals, Reschedules Ann Coulter’s Previously Canceled Talk - NBC New York

UC Berkeley Backpedals, Reschedules Ann Coulter’s Previously Canceled Talk

Right-wing provocateur responds via Twitter, saying money is spent for original date and she's unavailable on new date

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    A day after calling off Ann Coulter's upcoming appearance for security reasons, University of California, Berkeley officials backtracked and paved the way for her to speak on campus May 2. Kim Yonenaka reports. (Published Thursday, April 20, 2017)

    A day after calling off Ann Coulter's upcoming appearance for security reasons, University of California, Berkeley officials backtracked and paved the way for her to speak on campus May 2.

    But Coulter responded via Twitter on Thursday, indicating they've already spent money for the previously scheduled event on April 27, and she's not available to speak on the new date. Then she added: "THERE ARE NO CLASSES AT BERKELEY THE WEEK OF MAY 2!!!"

    University officials on Thursday said they've found a venue for the rescheduled event, but they did not reveal the specific location.

    Chancellor Nicholas Dirks said they originally canceled Coulter because of student safety. But because she is vowing to speak anyway, the university found a new venue.

    "As the home of the free speech movement, we fully support the right of our students to host speakers of their choice," Dirks said. "We also have an unwavering commitment to providing for the safety and well being of speakers who come to campus, our students and other members of our campus."

    The university said an "expanded search" has uncovered a venue on campus that meets their security criteria.

    UC Berkeley officials said Wednesday that they were "unable to find a safe and suitable" venue for the right-wing provocateur who was invited to speak by campus Republicans on April 27.

    Further details about the decision reversal were not immediately available.

    The hubbub sparked Tuesday when Vice Chancellor Scott Biddy sent a letter the Berkeley College Republicans, saying that university officials in consultation with campus police had determined they could not ensure the safety of Coulter, audience members or protesters expected at the event.

    News organizations obtained a copy of the letter Wednesday.

    "Unfortunately, UCPD determined that, given currently active security threats, it is not possible to assure that the event could be held successfully ... at any of the campus venues available on April 27th," the letter said.

    University spokesman Dan Mogulof said that posters went up on campus last week threatening disruption of the event and officials discovered "targeted threats" on various websites indicating the possibility of planned violence.

    "We realize that this is disappointing news," Biddy's letter said, promising that campus police and officials will work the Berkeley College Republicans to find another time and date for Coulter's speech. 

    UC Berkeley said it did not have enough advance notice to provide security for the Coulter event.

    "We learned about the invitation to Ms. Coulter by reading about it in the newspaper," university officials said.

    Berkeley College Republicans said that's not true, that they provided plenty of notice about their plans.

    The cancellation comes days after violent clashes between far-right and far-left protesters Saturday at a rally supporting President Donald Trump in downtown Berkeley.

    An appearance at UC Berkeley by former Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos was canceled after protesters rioted outside the event in February.

    UC Berkeley police said there won't be a repeat of what unfolded during the Yiannopoulos melee, when people who had infiltrated the protest started smashing windows and lighting fires.

    "Our approach is going to be different than the approach for the Milo event, again based on our after-action review," UC Berkeley police Capt. Alex Yao said.

    Organizers of the event released their own statement Wednesday, expressing discontentment at the change in plans.

    They wrote: "UC-Berkeley, a publicly-funded university, first imposed a series of ridiculous requirements on the speech allegedly in the name of 'safety.' Coulter, we were informed, would be required to deliver her speech in the afternoon; only students would be allowed to attend; and the speech location would not be announced until close to the event."

    Although Berkeley College Republicans advised Coulter not to agree to those stipulations, she did, they wrote. In return, she asked the chancellor to help ensure appropriate police response to "law-breaking by rioters attempting to shut down conservative speakers," according to the statement. 

    Coulter reportedly also asked Berkeley officials to warn students that "engaging in violence, mayhem or heckling" to prevent the speech would result in expulsion, the statement said. 

    The Berkeley College Republicans reported Coulter as having said, "If Berkeley wants to have free speech, it can have it."

    The group lashed out in its statement, accusing university officials of misusing taxpayer money for an "unconstitutional purpose" and comparing Biddy and UC President Janet Napolitano to North Korea's authoritarian leader Kim Jong Un.  

    "This is as clear-cut a case as it gets that public universities are using taxpayer dollars to shut down conservative speech, while allowing liberal speech only," they wrote. 

    Group members have stressed that they have "no intention of acceding to these unconstitutional acts. The Ann Coulter lecture sponsored by Young America’s Foundation will go forward."

    Coulter herself said in a tweet Wednesday she's still planning on coming to Berkeley to speak and blasted the school for canceling the event.

    NBC Bay Area's Kim Yonenaka contributed to this report.