Two conservative students groups are suing the University of California, Berkeley for cancelling a speech by conservative commentator Ann Coulter.
The groups, the Young America’s Foundation and Berkeley College Republicans, argue in a lawsuit filed in California on Monday that Berkeley placed the rights of masked protesters above those of tuition-paying conservative students.
“University officials concede that they allow the tastes and criminal actions of a masked mob to define who they allow to speak at U.C. Berkeley,” the complaint states.
Coulter was set to speak at a campus event this Thursday, but university officials last week notified the groups hosting her that the speech would be cancelled due to security concerns. The school offered to allow Coulter to appear on campus on May 2, but the student groups say in the lawsuit that the offer is not acceptable because classes are not being held next week while students prepare for finals. (RELATED: Berkeley Cancels Ann Coulter’s Speech Because Of Security Concerns)
The groups accuse Berkeley, once known as the “birthplace of the Free Speech Movement,” of restricting and stifling “the speech of conservative students whose voices fall beyond the campus political orthodoxy.”
They say the school, a well-known liberal enclave, cancelled the event “simply because that expression may anger or offend students, UC Berkeley administrators, and/or community members who do not share Plaintiffs’ viewpoints.”
The lawsuit asserts that Berkeley “could have taken appropriate security measures to ensure the safety of those attending conservative speaking engagements – as is their duty to all students on campus – but they have refused to do so.”
It also accuses school officials of caving into the “whims” of so-called antifa (anti-fascist) groups that have recently protested various conservative events around the country.
Antifas have been particularly active at Berkeley. Masked antifas disrupted a pro-Trump rally held on campus earlier this month. And in February, members of the black-clad group forced the cancellation of a speech by right-wing writer Milo Yiannopoulos. (RELATED: The Left’s Embrace Of Political Violence Backfires)
The complaint notes an April 21 letter from Berkeley lawyer Christopher Patti acknowledging that the decision to cancel Coulter’s speech was triggered by a “security assessment” conducted by Berkeley police which revealed “mounting intelligence that some of the same groups that previously engaged in local violent action also intended violence at the Coulter Event.”
“Mr. Patti appears to be referring to the so-called ‘antifa’ groups from outside the campus indulging in violence at Berkeley to silence conservatives gathering in or around the UC Berkeley campus.”
The antifas “appear to have more power and rights on the campus than students showing their faces, paying tuition, and seeking a balanced educational environment at a publicly-funded institution of higher learning,” the lawsuit states.