Conservative commentator Ann Coulter said Wednesday she will not speak at the University of California, Berkeley, but police said they still expect protesters to show up at the campus.
It was a confusing day in the long-running controversy. The New York Times and Reuters initially reported that Coulter would "likely" cancel her speech and that she had canceled her speech, respectively. Then Coulter told BuzzFeed News that the university scrapped it. The truth seems to be a little more complicated.
"NO," Coulter told BuzzFeed News on Wednesday when asked if she canceled the address. "The university canceled it and YAF acquiesced in the cancelation, against my strong wishes. I did everything I could to make this come off."
But when asked if the school had ever explicitly canceled the April 27 event, Coulter told BuzzFeed News that "the university's position changed every 20 minutes."
Coulter followed up in a series of tweets: "It’s sickening when a radical thuggish institution like Berkeley can so easily snuff out the cherished American right to free speech."
"If we had continued to fight we would have won," she added on Twitter.
Despite the tweets, UC Berkeley Police Capt. Alex Yao said police and university officials have not yet received confirmation from Coulter that she will not be appearing at the school Thursday, and multiple groups on opposite sides of the political spectrum were still expected to show up on campus.
"Even though at this time it seems that Ms. Coulter has canceled her event, we still haven't received confirmation," Yao said.
Because of that uncertainty, and because some groups supporting and opposing Coulter's appearance at the university, Yao said that police were still preparing for a "riot-like situation" at the campus Thursday.
Police have received information some groups planned to go to the campus and initiate violence, and campus officials have contacted nearby agencies in case they need assistance, Yao said.
"Tomorrow, we are going to have a very low tolerance for violence," he added.
Young America’s Foundation released a statement Tuesday condemning UC Berkeley for making it “impossible to hold a lecture due to the lack of assurances for protections from foreseeable violence from unrestrained leftist agitators.”
The group also said that it would no longer participate in the event.
“Ms. Coulter may still choose to speak in some form on campus, but Young America’s Foundation will not jeopardize the safety of its staff or students,” the group said.
Alt-right figure Richard Spencer chastised Coulter on Twitter, calling her and other conservatives weak for backing down.
Some groups and supporters, meanwhile, have said they still plan to head out to Berkeley in support of the conservative commentator in hopes that she will change her mind.
Oath Keepers, for example, has urged Coulter to speak at the school and has also claimed it would offer her protection.
With multiple chapters across the country, Oath Keepers describes itself as a group composed of former and current law enforcement and military members. The FBI and other law enforcement have also described them as a militant anti-government organization.
A "call to action" sent by Oath Keepers President Stewart Rhodes asked members to head to Berkeley and take body armor, helmets, goggles, and a groin cup for possible altercations with people protesting Coulter.
Oath Keeper members were asked not to carry firearms, unless they held carry-conceal weapon permits or if they were former law enforcement.
On April 20, UC Berkeley reversed an earlier decision to cancel Coulter’s speaking engagement, citing safety concerns. Instead, UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks offered to book her the following week on May 2, prompting a lawsuit from the Berkeley College Republicans, who organized the event.
The university has maintained it was working with Berkeley College Republicans to set a new date, but that the event was never officially on a schedule and the student group did not allow for enough time to secure a safe venue.
UC Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof told BuzzFeed News that school officials only became aware of the proposed April 27 date after seeing it in the news.
"We spent two weeks scrambling to find a venue" after they found out about the proposed April 27 event, Mogulof said. "We offered her a backup date on May 2, she turned that down. We offered her dates in September, she turned that down."
The internal vice president of Berkeley College Republicans confirmed to BuzzFeed News last week that "not enough time was given to the university to plan the event."
Coulter's claim that the university canceled the event is "complete nonsense," Mogulof said.
"The point of the fact is that Ms. Coulter is welcomed to this campus," he added.
Tamerra Griffin is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based Nairobi, Kenya.
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Salvador Hernandez is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.
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