April 20, 2017 / 3:42 PM / 4 months ago

UC Berkeley reverses course, re-books cancelled Ann Coulter speech

Journalist Ann Coulter arrives at the Time 100 gala celebrating the magazine's naming of the 100 most influential people in the world for the past year, in New York April 29, 2014.Lucas Jackson (UNITED STATES - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT MEDIA)

(Reuters) - The University of California, Berkeley, which cancelled a speech by Ann Coulter over what the school said were security concerns, on Thursday rescheduled the event after the conservative commentator said she would show up and speak anyway.

U.C. Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks said the university had cancelled the April 27 event on Wednesday based on specific intelligence of threats "that could pose a grave danger to the speaker."Dirks said in a statement that the university, in its commitment to free speech, had found an "appropriate, protectable" venue where Coulter's speech could go forward in a safe environment on May 2.

In apparent response to the decision, Coulter tweeted "Berkeley just imposed an all-new arbitrary & harassing condition on my exercise of a constitutional right."

One of the country's best-known conservative pundits, Coulter had been scheduled to speak to a college Republican club about her 2015 book, "¡Adios, America!: The Left's Plan to Turn Our Country Into a Third World Hellhole."

Berkeley is known as the birthplace of the student-led Free Speech Movement of the 1960s. As with other U.S. colleges and universities, it has tried to find a balance between ideological openness, student safety and student opposition to what some describe as "hate speech."

In recent months, several conservative speakers have been met with disruptive, sometimes violent protests when invited to speak at U.S. universities with liberal-leaning student bodies.

In cancelling Coulter's speech on Wednesday, UC Berkeley cited violence that broke out at the campus in February, hours before right-wing media personality Milo Yiannopoulos was scheduled to speak there.

Coulter in a Fox News interview later on Wednesday said she would still speak.

"What are they going to do? Arrest me?" Coulter said. "I'm definitely giving the speech."

Following the violence surrounding Yiannopoulos' planned lecture and U.C. Berkeley's decision to cancel it, President Donald Trump, who had taken office just days earlier, threatened to cut off funding to the school.

On Tuesday, police arrested at least three people protesting an appearance at Alabama's Auburn University by Richard Spencer, a prominent white nationalist.

Reporting by Jonathan Allen and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Editing by Frances Kerry and Andrew Hay

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