Ann Coulter backers file lawsuit against UC Berkeley administrators

Bobby Lee/Staff

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Ann Coulter announced via Twitter that Berkeley College Republicans and the Young America’s Foundation filed a lawsuit Monday morning against several University of California and UC Berkeley administrators.

The lawsuit lists UC President Janet Napolitano, UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks, Interim Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Stephen Sutton, Associate Vice Chancellor and Dean of Students Joseph Greenwell, UCPD Chief Margo Bennett, UCPD Operations Division Captain Alex Yao and UCPD Patrol Lieutenant Leroy Harris as defendants. The suit alleges that the plaintiffs are suing the defendants for an alleged discriminatory policy “to restrict conservative speech on the UC Berkeley campus,” violating their free speech, equal protection and due process.

“Defendants freely admit that they have permitted the demands of a faceless, rabid, off-campus mob to dictate what speech is permitted at the center of campus during prime time, and which speech may be marginalized, burdened, and regulated out of its very existence by this unlawful heckler’s veto,” the complaint alleges.

BCR spokesperson Naweed Tahmas could not be reached for comment as of press time.

UC spokesperson Dianne Klein released a statement Monday afternoon, in which she denied the allegations in the lawsuit. She added that the Young America’s Foundation has sponsored many speaking events on the UC Berkeley campus over the past few years, including Ben Shapiro.

“The University of California welcomes speakers of all political viewpoints and is committed to providing a forum to enable Ann Coulter to speak on the Berkeley campus,” Klein said in her statement. “UC Berkeley has been working to accommodate a mutually agreeable time for Ms. Coulter’s visit — which has not yet been scheduled — and remains committed to doing so. The campus seeks to ensure that all members of the Berkeley and larger community — including Ms. Coulter herself — remain safe during such an event.”

The complaint states that the campus’s curfew and venue restrictions have forced BCR to cancel two speaking events featuring well-known conservative speakers, including author David Horowitz and political commentator Ann Coulter. The campus announced soon after the cancellation of Coulter’s visit, however, that the event would be postponed to May 2. But the campus has seized all planning for the event because BCR threatened to file the lawsuit.

The complaint also references the cancellation of the Milo Yiannopoulos event, stating that it is another example of UC Berkeley allegedly violating free speech.

BCR hired an attorney, Harmeet Dhillon, last week and threatened to sue the campus for postponing Coulter’s event.

In the complaint, the plaintiffs allege that the campus’s policies are “unconstitutionally vague” and are directed at burdening or banning speaking engagements that express conservative viewpoints.

“(Young America’s Foundation) and BCR seek temporary and permanent injunctive relief to prevent Defendants from continuing to muzzle Plaintiffs’ constitutionally-protected speech, and to enjoin the Defendants’ transparent attempts to stifle political discourse at UC Berkeley,” the complaint alleges. “Plaintiffs also seek damages from each Defendant sued in his or her individual capacity.”

In a Monday afternoon press conference, Dhillon explained that the plaintiffs are asking for an injunction to prevent the campus from enforcing the allegedly unwritten and unpublicized “high profile speakers policy.”

At the press conference, Dhillon alleged that the policy allows the campus administration to unilaterally declare an invited speaker “high profile,” making it permissible to restrict the time, manner and place of where that guest is allowed to speak on campus. She also alleged that this policy is being partially driven by Mayor Jesse Arreguín’s office.

Arreguín responded to the allegations in an emailed statement Monday evening, emphasizing his commitment to continuing the city’s “legacy as the birthplace of the Free Speech Movement.” He added that he spoke with Dirks and other campus officials after the Yiannopoulos event was canceled to work to ensure the protection of First Amendment rights and the safety of the campus community.

Dhillon alleged at the press conference that this “problem runs deeper than (the) Ann Coulter event,” stressing the need for action.

“What we have a is a shadowy policy that is double-secret, a policy that is going to be applied in the future unless it’s going to be debated,” Dhillon said at the press conference. “They need to change their unwritten policy, staff security appropriately and ask (the) mayor to do his job.”

Contact Chantelle Lee and Bobby Lee at [email protected].