US Justice Department backs conservative UC Berkeley students in free speech suit

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The U.S. Department of Justice, or DOJ, filed a statement of interest in support of the Young America’s Foundation and the Berkeley College Republicans’ lawsuit against UC Berkeley, according to a Thursday DOJ press release.

The Young America’s Foundation, or YAF, and the Berkeley College Republicans, or BCR, sued the campus in April 2017 for allegedly restricting the organizations’ free speech rights on campus. The lawsuit was filed in light of the cancellation of conservative author Ann Coulter’s planned campus event last spring, after the hosting student organizations pulled their support.

While the original lawsuit was dismissed by a federal judge in October, BCR and YAF filed an amended complaint in November. In the lawsuit, YAF and BCR call for “temporary and permanent” injunctive relief to prevent the campus from interfering with events, as well as monetary damages and a judgement that their right to free speech had been violated.

“This Department of Justice will not stand by idly while public universities violate students’ constitutional rights,” U.S. Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand said in the press release.

According to the statement of interest, the argument that YAF and BCR make in the lawsuit is enough to show that the campus violated the First Amendment.

YAF also released a press release Thursday in response to the DOJ’s statement of interest, welcoming their support. The press release reaffirmed YAF and BCR’s position in the lawsuit and alleged that administrators “routinely violate the First Amendment freedoms of conservative students.”   

Campus spokesperson Roqua Montez said the allegations were “unfounded,” and referenced the “significant resources” that campus has expended in order to maintain campus safety.

“Berkeley does not discriminate against speakers invited by student organizations based upon viewpoint,” Montez said. “The campus will continue to vigorously defend itself against these allegations.”

Sakura Cannestra is an assistant news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @SakuCannestra.