Opinion: Berkeley has become the place where political extremists come to throw punches

APRIL 15, 2017 BERKELEY, CA Pepper spray is used by someone in the crowd as supporters of President
Pepper spray is used by someone in the crowd as supporters of President Trump clash with protesters at a rally at Civic Center Park on April 15 in Berkeley.
(David Butow / For The Times)

Cal officials are doomed, no matter how they try to manage the Ann Coulter speech mess. Extremists have picked Berkeley as the location of their brewing ideological war, and there is little university or city officials can do about it.

Except to make matters worse. And it appears UC Berkeley Regents have done just that this week when, freaked out about violent clashes days before, they tried to shut down the Coulter speech scheduled for April 27. Backtracking a few days later, they offered Coulter a later date, when classes will be finished.

For the record:
12:52 AM, May. 31, 2019 An earlier version of this post referred to the “violent free speech movement” of the 1960s. While there was some violence by police and hecklers during the Free Speech Movement protests in Berkeley in 1964-65, the movement itself was non-violent.
Conservative author Ann Coulter addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington
Conservative author Ann Coulter addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington on Feb. 20, 2010.
(Jose Luis Magana / Associated Press)

Too late. Damage done. Coulter says there’s no way she’s waiting until May 2. She’ll be in Berkeley on Thursday to speak, invite or not. And her faithful supporters will be there too, protecting Coulter’s right to speak, whatever nasty thing comes to mind.


The black clad “masked” anarchists from out of town making so much mischief in Berkeley lately would be nuts to miss this opportunity to take on their conservative nemeses, maybe get some payback for a white nationalist who punched a woman in the face during last week’s protest.

Coulter couldn’t have planned it any better herself.

I feel for the people in charge of the campus and the city who have to deal with the cost of hosting the battles between leftist revolutionaries and alt-right warriors. There will be damage to public property. There will be overtime for the police and campus security. There will be blood. Maybe not this time. But the next time. Or the next.


There will be another clash because the provocateurs on the right know that if you want to start a public fight with the reactionaries on the left, you come to Berkeley to do it — the campus or the city, it doesn’t matter as they are one and the same in the eyes of the world. This is the way it has been forever, or at least in the half a century since the protests of the 1960s birthed the liberal, supposedly tolerant haven Berkeley is now.

People who choose to live in the city know this, students know it and the few conservatives there know it too, which is why they keep trying to bring in politically explosive speakers like Coulter, Milo Yiannopoulos and David Horowitz. All of whom were invited to speak this year by Republican groups who knew exactly how much trouble they were stirring up. The Yiannopoulos and Horowitz events were both shut down. Coulter, it seems, won’t let Berkeley off easy.

Hopefully, University officials now realize they can’t win by trying to shut down free speech, vile and vicious though it may be. It’s not the Berkeley way and, as is now clear, it only feeds the fire.

Follow me @marielgarzaLAT

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