BERKELEY (KPIX 5) — The planned visit by firebrand conservative commentator Ann Coulter to the University of California, Berkeley has officials and organizers worrying about a repeat of the rioting which greeted Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos.
Coulter’s visit to UC Berkeley isn’t for another month. But student organizers of the event say they are nervous that the visit from the outspoken conservative will spark another massive backlash.
“We are pretty apprehensive right now about everything,” said Pranav Jandahyala, president of the nonpartisan student political organization BridgeCal. “But at the same time, what’s pushing us forward is our optimism. We truly believe we can put on a great event.”
In January, college Republicans cancelled a talk by right-wing commentator Yiannopoulos after violent protesters smashed windows and started a fire outside the event.
This time, the college Republicans are working with BridgeCal which says it’s hoping the university has a stronger security plan.
“This time we are definitely going to push them to provide more security than they did last time,” said Jandahyala. “More officers on the ground instead of in the balcony.”
Coulter is expected to talk about immigration. Critics say she is anti-immigrant and her views racist.
UC Berkeley said it is committed to free speech, but in a statement it said, “The administration wishes to make clear that an invitation of this sort in no way suggests our endorsement of a particular point of view, and we will continue to affirm our commitment to the values of diversity, equality, and tolerance that underlie the greatness of Berkeley and, indeed, of our nation.”
The conservative group Young America’s Foundation will pay the majority of Coulter’s $20,000 speaking fee.
Student organizers say the April 27th event will have a question-and-answer session, and they hope instead of explosive protests, the event ignites heated discussions.
“So what I challenge you to do is actually confront her,” said Jandahyala. “If she comes to speak on campus and there’s no challenge to her viewpoint and people resort to violence and maybe she doesn’t speak, her views go unchallenged.”