Berkeley Mayor Urges UC Berkeley To Cancel Free Speech Week

On Monday night, Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin, a committed leftist, urged UC Berkeley to cancel the university’s plans for a Free Speech Week in September that just so happens to coincide with speeches planned by speakers who target the Left.

Arreguin asserted, “I don’t want Berkeley being used as a punching bag. I am concerned about these groups using large protests to create mayhem. It’s something we have seen in Oakland and in Berkeley.”

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Arreguin wants UC Berkeley to thwart the conservative campus group, the Berkeley Patriot, from hosting provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos and possibly pundit Ann Coulter and former Breitbart News chairman Steve Bannon to speak during the previously announced Free Speech Week from Sept. 24-27. The Berkeley Patriot’s spokesman, Bryce Kasamoto, acknowledged on Monday, “We are still working out the logistics of this event with the university and law enforcement. Once we have worked out final specifics, we will be able to confirm speakers for Free Speech Week.”

On September 14, roughly ten days before Free Speech week, Daily Wire Editor-in-Chief Ben Shapiro is scheduled to speak at Berkeley, which has charged the Berkeley College Republicans over $15,000 for security. Conservative organization Young America’s Foundation announced last week it would pay the fee, which it called "effectively a tax on free speech."

As Katie Pavlich of Townhall noted, the Foundation For Individual Rights in Education regularly points out, "any requirement that student organizations hosting controversial events pay for extra security is unconstitutional because it affixes a price tag to events on the basis of their expressive content." Shapiro told the Chronicle last week he had no problems with non-violent protesters, and pointed out, “I’m actively telling people not to show up to defend my free speech. That’s the police’s job.”

Arreguin opined, “I’m very concerned about Milo Yiannopoulos and Ann Coulter and some of these other right-wing speakers coming to the Berkeley campus, because it’s just a target for black bloc to come out and commit mayhem on the Berkeley campus and have that potentially spill out on the street.”

Arreguin added, “I obviously believe in freedom of speech, but there is a line between freedom of speech and then posing a risk to public safety. That is where we have to really be very careful — that while protecting people’s free-speech rights, we are not putting our citizens in a potentially dangerous situation and costing the city hundreds of thousands of dollars fixing the windows of businesses.”

UC Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof noted that the university did not invite Yiannopoulus to speak, but “we have neither the legal right nor ability to interfere with or cancel (students groups’) invitations based on the perspectives and beliefs of the speakers.” He added, “Where we do have discretion is around everything that has to do with the safety of our communities, and the well-being of those who may feel threatened or harmed by what some of these speakers may espouse. We can assure you that those priorities, along with our commitment to free speech, remain at the center of our planning and priorities.”

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