Conservative author Ann Coulter spoke Wednesday to a crowd of about 400 in UC Berkeley’s Wheeler Hall, as more than a thousand protested outside.
Coulter’s speech, hosted by the Berkeley College Republicans, or BCR, was titled “Adios, America!” after her 2015 book on U.S. immigration policy. The event comes two years after Coulter previously withdrew from her campus speech because of safety concerns.
Berkeley Police Department, California Highway Patrol and UCPD officers from all UC campuses except UC Santa Cruz were present because of concerns for campus safety, according to campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof. About 9:30 p.m., police officers slowed and occasionally stalled entrance to the event.
Rudra Reddy, BCR external vice president and former Daily Californian columnist, said in an email before the event that the organization was excited for Coulter’s talk.
“We believe our preparations are more than adequate to ensure that Ms. Coulter’s talk does go ahead later today without any major disruptions,” Reddy said in an email. “BCR is very excited about the prospect of hosting Ms. Coulter, the figurative architect of President Trump’s policy on immigration, in the backdrop of the recent oral arguments in the DACA case at the Supreme Court as well as the recent migrant surge at the border.”
Campus junior Abel De La Cruz, an organizer with By Any Means Necessary, or BAMN, said they planned to protest and shut down Coulter’s speech because her language allegedly “incites violence against communities of color.”
Students and members of the Berkeley community began gathering outside of Wheeler Hall by 4 p.m., holding signs that read “shut down Coulter,” “shut down the concentration camps now” and “Trump must go by any means necessary,” among other things. About 6:15 p.m., an outline of Adolf Hitler was seen projected on the Campanile.
Protesters also set up a projector in front of Wheeler Hall, where they displayed several images, including a projection of the United Against Hate poster, reading “Berkeley Stands United Against Hate.”
As event attendees began trying to enter the building before Coulter’s speech, protesters blocked the entrance of the building, chanting “Don’t let them in,” and multiple attendees were stopped as a result. At the building’s north side, protesters turned away former BCR president Troy Worden from entering the event.
According to former BCR president Bradley Devlin, about 400 tickets were bought for the event; in a press conference after the event, Mogulof said about 400 attended.
Minutes after Coulter began her speech, two audience members were escorted out of Wheeler Hall for interrupting.
Coulter’s speech was highly anticipated by conservative students, according to Devlin. He added that immigration was a central issue during the 2016 election cycle and continues to be at the “forefront of Donald Trump’s policies” heading into the upcoming 2020 elections.
In her speech, Coulter discussed the U.S. immigration policy, saying, “Our immigration policy is anybody who lives within walking distance.”
As the event transitioned into its Q&A portion, Coulter responded to an audience question about admitting “high-skilled” immigrants, saying she is supportive of this but adding that “We need some time to assimilate the ones already here.”
“By definition, we’re the freest country in the world, so any immigrant we bring in from any place would make us less free,” Coulter said during her talk.
Picket lines formed on the north and south sides of Wheeler Hall, with barricades separating dozens of police officers from protesters, and by 9:30 p.m., a human barricade formed around the entire building. Students and community members chanted, “Berkeley is a sanctuary, no Coulter, no ICE,” and “No justice, no peace, no racist police.”
Multiple protesters in masks were arrested, according to a tweet from UCPD. After the event, Mogulof confirmed that six to seven people were arrested under various charges.
The protesters began dispersing about 9:30 p.m. after Coulter’s speech began, but they rallied once more when the speech ended about 10:30 p.m.
“This is another in a series of events that have happened in the past two years,” Mogulof said at the press conference. “We’re well aware there are members of campus who feel disturbed by the presence of someone they deeply disagree with, and we will provide them with services to support them emotionally and psychologically in the campus community, but we have to abide by the laws of the land.”
Amanda Bradford, Marc Escobar, Julie Madsen, Isabella Sabri, Skylar Schoemig, Mallika Seshadri, Anjali Shrivastava, Jacob Souza and Amber Tang contributed to this report.