The actions of UC Berkeley administration regarding Ann Coulter’s pending visit to campus have generated heavy criticism from many community members, who are alleging that the administration is violating First Amendment rights. There have been numerous misconceptions surrounding the highly controversial issue.
Misconception No. 1: Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín is affiliated with Antifa
On Friday, media outlets such as Breitbart and Gateway Pundit alleged that Mayor Jesse Arreguín is a member and supporter of activist group By Any Means Necessary, or BAMN, because he is Facebook friends with BAMN organizer Yvette Felarca. The outlets also equated BAMN with the anti-fascist movement Antifa, although BAMN is a separate group from Antifa.
Stefan Elgstrand, Arreguín’s chief of staff, confirmed in an email that Arreguín is not a member of BAMN. Arreguín also denied the allegations, adding that he does not support Antifa’s views.
“On social media, following or liking pages does not mean you support what that group is doing,” Arreguín said in an email. “I follow Donald Trump on Twitter to stay up to date on what he’s saying. Would Breitbart suggest that makes me a Trump supporter?”
Arreguín alleged in his email that Breitbart is purposely broadcasting false information to portray Berkeley as anti-free speech. He emphasized that the city does its utmost to protect freedom of speech and peaceful assembly.
Misconception No. 2: Berkeley doesn’t have classes May 2, so there will be no students on campus that day
Coulter responded to the campus’s postponement of her event in a tweet Thursday, stating that she couldn’t speak May 2 because “THERE ARE NO CLASSES AT BERKELEY THE WEEK OF MAY 2!!!”
People outside of the city, who may not be familiar with the campus’s Review, Reading and Recitation — or RRR — week, responded to the tweet, alleging that the campus is actively trying to distract from Coulter’s appearance.
Campus students explained that the last week of instruction occurs before RRR week, and that RRR week, also known as “dead week,” is a week without classes that allows students time to catch up on their coursework.
“I feel like there’s a lot of people on campus during dead week — libraries are always packed,” said campus freshman Jagpinder Singh Dhaliwal.
Campus senior Priya Patel also emphasized that there are many events happening on campus during dead week.
Many campus students stated that the administration shouldn’t prevent Coulter from visiting the campus. They added, however, that they didn’t believe the allegations that the campus is actively undermining the event.
“She’s trying to imply students are not here,” said campus freshman Tanthai Pongstein. “Students are more likely to go because there are no classes. There’s less commitment.”
Misconception No. 3: There is a new “high-profile speaker policy” that lets the administration place restrictions on a speaker’s visitation
Berkeley College Republicans’ attorney Harmeet Dhillon alleged in the lawsuit filed against campus administrators that they held a meeting with UCPD, Berkeley Police Department and members from Arreguín’s office to adopt a new policy “that would impose more stringent restrictions on events involving ‘high-profile speakers.’ ” Dhillon alleged in the suit that the campus is enforcing a “high-profile speaker policy.”
According to campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof, however, the alleged policy doesn’t exist. Mogulof said campus administrators work to ensure the community’s safety and that UCPD offers recommendations for each campus event based solely on safety assessments.
“Every event is evaluated by police on its own merits,” Mogulof said. “That is not based on the perspective of the speaker nor based on their public profile. It is based solely on UCPD’s security assessments and recommendations.”
Misconception No. 4: Antifa is the only group that plans to use violence
Mogulof said there is “real, significant … intelligence” regarding threats related to Coulter and her campus visit. He added that these threats are coming from across the political spectrum.
A thread on 4chan, an online community forum, appears to include responses from several right-wing supporters who are threatening to use violence April 27 against anticipated Antifa protesters.
“UCPD has been very vocal about the fact that they have inside info on various groups who will use violence,” said Pranav Jandhyala, BridgeUSA founder and co-president.
Jandhyala added that BridgeUSA has been receiving threatening messages, stating that Coulter’s visit will lead to another protest similar to those regarding Milo Yiannopoulos in February.
Coulter has said repeatedly that she is coming to the campus April 27, as originally planned, regardless of what the campus says.
Mogulof said in an email that he is aware of Coulter’s intention to visit the campus this week. UC San Francisco’s UCPD has been called in to assist, according to its Office of the Chief.
“Together with our police department we will be doing what we can to provide safety and security to our students, other members of the campus community, the public and Ms. Coulter,” Mogulof said in his email.