Ann Coulter was scheduled to speak at the University of California at Berkeley. The Young Americans Foundation had put together the blockbuster event, and the university had approved it.
Then the fascists arrived.
And their leftist enablers allowed the fascists to win.
First, the university cancelled the event – refusing to abide by Coulter’s request that they inform the police to act against violent protesters against her. Then, after a firestorm, Berkeley proposed that Coulter speak a week later, when school was out of session. When Coulter refused and said she would show up anyway at the time and date scheduled, the university said it would not provide a forum; Coulter originally responded by saying she would speak in the plaza, but she finally cancelled the event because of threat of violence. Young Americans Foundation said they could not “jeopardize the safety of its staff or students” by participating in the event. Berkeley College Republicans also backed out.
The university’s chancellor, Nicholas Dirks, put out a statement, explaining, “This University has two non-negotiable commitments, one to Free Speech, the other to the safety of our campus community members, their guests, and the public. In that context, we cannot ignore or deny what is a new reality. Groups and individuals from the extreme ends of the political spectrum have made clear their readiness and intention to utilize violent tactics in support or in protest of certain speakers at UC Berkeley…We cannot wish away or pretend that these threats do not exist.
The university said that it would be impossible for the police department to “simply step in and stop violent confrontations,” adding “This is a University, not a battlefield.” The university said it would not “allow our students, other members of the campus community, and the public to be needlessly endangered by permitting an event to be held in a venue that our police force does not believe to be protectable.”
The police chief, Andrew Greenwood, told the Berkeley City Council, “Intervention requires a major commitment of resources, a significant use of force, and carries with it the strong likelihood of harming those who are not committing a crime.”
This is asinine.
Here’s the truth: police have an obligation to maintain law and order. Period. It is the job of the public university not to discriminate based on viewpoint – and allowing a backdoor discriminatory heckler’s veto, just because hard-core leftists are violent and conservatives aren’t, is disgusting and violative of First Amendment freedoms. The rule here is simple: police need to do what they need to do to stop violence on their campuses, at whatever cost is necessary. That is their purpose. Any student who participates in property destruction or non-self-defense violence should be summarily expelled.
But that’s not what’s happening. In reality, administrations across the country are using the presence of leftist rioters as a sort of stalking horse for their own politics. When I spoke at California State University at Los Angeles, the administration attempted to cancel my event; when I said I would show up anyway, they uncancelled it an hour beforehand, but reportedly told police officers not to intervene to ensure that students could attend the event unmolested. The result: a near-riot on campus, including students trapped in the auditorium and told they could not be protected if they ventured outside. When I spoke at the University of Wisconsin, I was told that the police had been instructed to break up the event if they were forced to remove protesters forcibly – in other words, the only way the event would go forward as planned was with the good grace of protesters, who stood and blocked the event for twenty minutes. I was pre-emptively banned from DePaul University (a private university, so different rules apply), supposedly over safety concerns – and I was told that I would be arrested if I set foot on campus. No protesters showed up when I did, but I was faced with the prospect of an evening at Cook County jail if I violated the non-existent protesters’ sense of right and wrong.
Similar situations have arisen at Berkeley and Middlebury College among others.
Fascists are winning. And they’re winning the same way they’ve always won: through outside pressure, combined with feckless and malevolent administration. Where is Governor Jerry Brown and the National Guard, if this is just some sort of basic safety issue? Does anyone truly believe that Berkeley would have cancelled an event for Ta-Nehisi Coates if a bunch of white supremacist protesters had shown up threatening violence? Of course not. They’d tell the cops to knock some heads together.
But they won’t do that with Antifa, because that would violate the politics of the university and the city. So we now have a major public university able to write the First Amendment out of existence for conservatives on the basis of safety. That’s a dangerous precedent, and even the leftist California courts should intervene to stop such tyranny.