Campus Reform | Mayor pressures UC-Berkeley to cancel ‘Free Speech Week’

Mayor pressures UC-Berkeley to cancel ‘Free Speech Week’

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Berkeley’s mayor is pressuring the town’s flagship university to cancel its upcoming “free speech week” just days after the school’s chancellor vowed to defend the First Amendment on campus.

As Campus Reform previously reported, University of California, Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ welcomed students to campus last week with a forceful defense of free speech, vowing to “hold accountable” those who use violence to shut down speakers.

In her statement, Christ informed students that the university would be hosting controversial speakers such as Milo Yiannopoulos and Ann Coulter in September during what has been dubbed “Free Speech Week.”

“Particularly now, it is critical that the Berkeley community come together once again to protect this right. It is who we are,” Christ added, even labeling the approaching school year a “free speech year.”

[RELATED: Berkeley Republicans unconvinced by ‘free speech year’]

But now she is facing pressure from Mayor Jesse Arreguin, who is urging Christ to reconsider her plans to welcome conservatives to campus.

“I don’t want Berkeley being used as a punching bag,” Arreguin told The San Francisco Chronicle. “I am concerned about these groups using large protests to create mayhem.”

Arreguin went on to assert that he is primarily concerned about violent protests erupting, as was the case when Yiannopoulos first tried to speak on campus in February.

“I’m very concerned about Milo Yiannopoulos and Ann Coulter and some of these other right-wing speakers coming to the Berkeley campus, because it’s just a target for black bloc to come out and commit mayhem on the Berkeley campus and have it potentially spill out on the street,” he continued, though he also insisted that he supports free speech.

[RELATED: Berkeley CR members allegedly hounded for political views]

“I obviously believe in freedom of speech, but there is a line between freedom of speech and then posing a risk to public safety,” he stated, saying that his goal is to ensure that “while protecting people’s free-speech rights, we are not putting our citizens in a potentially dangerous situation.”

In response, Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof told The Chronicle that the university has “neither the legal right nor ability to interfere with or cancel invitations based on the perspectives and beliefs of the speakers,” and could only take precautions against potential violence.

“Where we do have discretion is around everything that has to do with the safety of our communities, and the well-being of those who may feel threatened or harmed by what some of these speakers may espouse,” he elaborated. “We can assure you that those priorities, along with our commitment to free speech, remain at the center of our planning and priorities.”

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @AGockowski