BERKELEY (KTVU) -- U.C. Berkeley has become ground zero in a bitter political battle that has conservatives claiming they are being silenced by liberal facists at universities, and Cal officials saying they are being unfairly targeted for responding to security concerns regarding right-wing pundit Ann Coulter's April 27th invitation by student groups to speak on campus. A non-partisan student group Bridge USA that co-sponsored the event, says they're disappointed in all parties involved and says everyone bears part of the blame.
Coulter announced she will not come to U.C. Berkeley, after her sponsors said they could not move forward with the event due to lack of adequate university security.
Berkeley College Republicans (BCR) announced Wednesday that they were cancelling Coulter's April 27th speech, pointing at U.C. Berkeley officials.
"The University and UCPD have made it impossible for the Berkeley College Republicans and other groups to safely host Ms. Coulter on campus," said Troy Warden, the BCR President.
The university says it's unable to provide adequate security for her visit.
College Republicans questioned why the campus that started the free speech movement couldn't commit to protecting Coulter, after failing in February to stop the violence before a Milo Yiannopoulos event.
"It's a shame that violent anarchists and other groups that are allowed on campus freely are able to make threats against our event and force us to cancel out of concern of everyone involved," Warden said.
Harmeet Dhillon is an attorney for Berkeley College Republicans, who are suing the university over the canceled event.
"Is the university telling us that it's able to ensure safety and security at football games that have with thousands of people at them including drunk people and prominent people like this, yet when it comes to conservative speakers, it's not able to fulfill its sworn peace officer duty?" Dhillon said at an afternoon press conference in Sproul Plaza.
Hours later, Coulter told Sean Hannity on Fox News Channel, that the students gave in too easily to a liberal college agenda.
"They ran away, they gave in and then there was nothing I could do," Coulter said, criticizing YAF, the Young Americas Foundation, a national conservative group sponsoring her speech with the Berkeley College Republicans.
"Now we have YAF saying we'll strike a blow for the next speaker at Berkeley. No. I want to win now. Can Republicans ever win now?" Coulter said.
U.C. Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof said at a 3pm press conference that University officials had received word from the student groups that the Coulter event might be possible, but first learned about the exact event timing from a March 29th news report.
He said student organizers did not give them the recommended two months' advance notice to book a venue and ensure security.
"We wanted this event to take place," Mogulof said, "We looked at these venues, could we move a class here, move a class there, cancel an event, but this is a place of 50,000 people, we're moving into finals period, these venues get booked months in advance."
Bridge USA, a non-partisan student group was a co-sponsor of Coulter's speech.
"We're frustrated and disappointed," said Bridge USA's Berkeley chapter founder and Co-President Pranav Jandhyala.
Jandhyala says they had wanted an event that would foster dialogue. He says they are disappointed with the university for not doing more to protect students and speakers from off campus groups and trouble-makers. He said he also feels that Berkeley College Republicans hijacked the event for political purposes.
"The way we framed this event and all the thought and effort that we as an organization put into this event was sidelined," Jandhyala said, "We're still trying to fight to create a space where all political views and opinions are welcome to be challenged."
Bridge USA is not part of the lawsuit filed by the Berkeley College Republicans against U.C. Berkeley.
Both student groups and U.C. Berkeley officials say they are still interested in having Ann Coulter speak on campus at another time if she is willing.
I’m very sad about Berkeley's cancelation, but my sadness is greater than that. It is a dark day for free speech in America.— Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) April 26, 2017
Read UC Berkeley chancellor's full statement here.
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