A massive police presence in Berkeley encountered two opposing but peaceful protest camps Thursday. Following the cancellation of a speech by Ann Coulter, authorities feared a repeat of the violent clashes between right- and left-wing protestors that have plagued downtown Berkeley in recent weeks. One of the points of contention is who, exactly, cancelled the appearance.
Student groups invited Coulter to speak on Thursday, but the university asked for Coulter to come at another date so that student safety could be protected. Coulter refused, and called the rescheduling an assault on free speech. A student Republican group who helped invite Coulter also took up this framing. The university emphasized its embrace of free speech while at the same time noting it’s deep consideration for student safety.
SF Gate’s take on the protests can be read here: “Calm prevails in Berkeley after cops gear up in wake of Coulter cancellation”
Even though Coulter said she would not appear Thursday despite earlier indicating she would speak on Sproul Plaza, opposing protestors stated their intent to appear, with threats of violence circulated online. Those threats went unfulfilled, though the protest by the right-wing activists included Islamophobic and racist rhetoric.
Despite the peaceful protests, police did make arrests. One Cal student, Jorge-David Mancillas, was arrested for allegedly possessing a weapon. Mancillas is a stand-out student on campus, according to the Daily Cal, and was accepted into numerous prestigious PhD programs in sociology. Students protested his arrest Thursday afternoon claiming he was racially profiled.