The high-profile spat over conservative commentator Ann Coulter’s postponed speech at the University of California, Berkeley intensified on Monday, with two groups filing a civil rights lawsuit against the public college, claiming that the school discriminated against them and violated their free speech rights.
The suit, which was filed by the Berkeley College Republicans — the event organizer — and the Young America’s Foundation — the group helping to fund the event — seeks a fine over the school’s decision to postpone Coulter’s planned April 27 speech. Additionally, the complainants seek damages for the organizers of the event, Reuters reported.
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But while the the conservative groups alleged that the decision to delay Coulter’s visit is an act of discrimination against conservative viewpoints, the university has denied that allegation.
Ann Coulter: It's "up to police to keep me safe" at UC Berkeley on Thursday https://t.co/DOEJhvNDlt pic.twitter.com/wU9jYodCzp
— Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) April 23, 2017
“The allegation … that Ms. Coulter is being prohibited from speaking because of her conservative views is untrue,” Dianne Klein, a spokesperson for the university, said in a statement, according to Reuters.
Klein also said that the college is intent on offering a forum for Coulter to speak.
Coulter is not a party in the lawsuit, but told Reuters she supports it; she has also been tweeting about the ordeal over the past few days. The legal challenge against Berkeley is being led by Harmeet Dhillon, a prominent Republican in California, with Dhillon saying at a press conference after the filing that conservative ideals are being constrained at the college, the Associated Press reported.
“Berkeley is well known as a place where ideas used to be welcome. At least on the conservative side. At least until this recent election,” she said. “The university is required to give equal access to speakers of different viewpoints.”
Berkeley has been home to violent clashes of late, with concerns over these happenings playing a role in the Coulter fiasco, as the AP noted.
And as Faithwire previously reported, the hoopla over Coulter’s visit kicked off after Berkeley College Republicans invited her for the April 27 event, but were told by officials that they would need to reschedule the address over fears her speech would incite violence and endanger security.
So, the school agreed to reschedule the event for May 2, but that obviously hasn’t gone over too well, the Huffington Post reported.
Harmeet Dhillon, defending Berkeley College Republicans in the @AnnCoulter case: "I don't see the @ACLU in this room, which is unfortunate."
— Joel B. Pollak (@joelpollak) April 24, 2017
“Ms. Coulter’s announcement that she intends to come to this campus on April 27 without regard for the fact that we don’t have a protectable venue available on that date is of grave concern,” Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks said in a statement before the lawsuit’s filing.
He continued, “Our police department has made it clear that they have very specific intelligence regarding threats that could pose a grave danger to the speaker, attendees and those who may wish to lawfully protest the event.”
Coulter and the College Republicans have remained defiant, though, rejecting the May 2 reschedule date as one being held at a time when students won’t be able to attend; it’s during a period of time known as “dead week” when classes are over and students are studying for finals. Plus, Coulter said she isn’t available, and still plans to speak on Thursday.
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