Berkeley protests peaceful as hundreds rally over Coulter

Police at the University of California at Berkeley braced on Thursday for potential civil unrest stemming from a now-canceled speaking engagement by conservative commentator Ann Coulter following a recent spate of politically charged violence on or near the campus. Amid concerns violence might erupt, police erected barricades on the campus and dispatched officers in riot gear on motorcycles. Seven people were arrested, including one for obstructing an officer and wearing a mask to evade police, and another for possessing a knife.

"This isn't over but I can certainly say our priority and our strategy is making sure to protect public safety", Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín said.

UC Berkeley officials denied that Coulter was unwelcome because of her politics.

Helicopters circled over Berkeley and city and campus police put on a significant show of force on Thursday, according to local media reports. And I think both sides are responsible.

Gavin McInnes, co-founder of Vice Media and founder of the pro-Trump "Proud Boys", was one of several speakers at the gathering. They clashed with a group of Trump critics who called themselves anti-fascists.

Berkeley student Joseph Pagadara, 19, said he was anxious about violence and says the university is caught in the middle of the country's political divide. "But if the government gets to decide which speech counts as hate speech, the powers that be may later feel free to censor any speech they don't like". Civic Center Park in downtown Berkeley.

UPDATE: Two additional arrests have been made in the vicinity of protests, this time by Berkeley police. Protesters shutting down Yiannopoulos's speech.

Many people responded with anger about threats to free speech.

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Exactly who canceled Coulter's speech remains a point of contention.

Demonstrators shout slogans directed at city hall during a rally for free speech Thursday, April 27, 2017, in Berkeley, Calif. Demonstrators gathered near the University of California, Berkeley campus amid a strong police presence and rallied to show support for free speech and condemn the views of Ann Coulter and her supporters. The left is determined to silence people who say things they don't like. They called the canceled appearance the latest blow to free speech in the home of America's free-speech movement.

University officials said organisers erred by inviting Coulter without notifying campus officials in advance, as is required of all student groups, and by failing to submit to a "security assessment" to determine a suitable venue for the event.

"We know how to do this, but we can't do what we want to do to facilitate those speakers if the groups that want to invite them and host them don't work with us in the way that they need to", he said.

The current debate at Berkeley over the contested appearance of Ann Coulter as a guest speaker, of course, is emblematic of the larger, serious issue of which views should be permitted on campus and which, because they are deemed by the illiberal Left to be outside the bounds of appropriate discourse, should not.

The university, meanwhile, has said it's prepared for what may come.

In February, violent protesters forced the cancellation of a speech by right-wing writer Milo Yiannopoulos, who like Coulter was invited by campus Republicans. The student groups rejected an alternate date, May 2, because it fell during finals week, and then they filed a lawsuit claiming the school was infringing upon their First Amendment rights.

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