In an effort to avoid making Berkeley the center of violent protests, Mayor Jesse Arreguin is urging UC Berkeley to cancel its upcoming Free Speech Week set to feature conservative public figures Milo Yiannopoulos, Anne Coulter and possibly Steven Bannon in September.
“I obviously believe in the freedom of speech, but there is a line between freedom of speech and then posing a risk to public safety,” Arreguin said in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle.
“Whether or not speakers are allowed is a university decision. I expect the university to do everything they can to safeguard our community, which they have already promised to do," Arreguin told NBC Bay Area. "My concern has never been the views of any speaker, but rather the way various extremists use these events to provoke violence in our city. Berkeley’s values of inclusivity are woven into the fabric of our community, and no opinion, however controversial, can ever threaten that.”
Since the mayor made the comments to the Chronicle, UC Berkeley released a statement explaining that the university did not “invite” any of the speakers; they are being hosted by conservative campus groups like the Berkeley Patriot and Berkeley College Republicans, which are legally independent student organizations.
“We have neither the legal right nor ability to interfere with or cancel their invitations based on the perspectives and beliefs of the speakers,” said UC Berkeley spokesperson, Dan Mogulof. “Where we do have discretions 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.”
Earlier this year, Yiannopoulos was scheduled to speak at UC Berkeley but was canceled due to violent protesters, causing $100,000 worth of damage to the campus. Arreguin believes that inviting right-wing speakers is setting up the city for a possible repeat of chaos.
On Monday, Yiannopoulos told TMZ that he had a message for protesters. A large group of protesters turned violent as they chased out a small number of right-wing demonstrators from downtown Berkeley last Sunday.
Yiannopoulos said that there was no official list of speakers for "Free Speech Week" yet. "UC Berkeley leaked the names... thinking about maybe giving a heads up to their friends in the antifa. But we're not going to allow that to derail the event." he told TMZ. "We're going to be announcing the names on our own timeline." Yiannopoulos said event organizers would be dealing with federal authorities to make sure the events go off properly.
Yiannopoulos said he wanted everybody to protest, but that "it should be done peacefully. You got to do it with speech not violence. As soon as you lay a hand on somebody else or start destroy somebody else's property, you become a problem."
He also said that he didn't think there was a resurgency of white supremacists. "There are a couple of thousand idiot white supremacists in the country versus tens of thousands of much more dangerous and much more idiotic Black Lives Matter supporters," he said.
Before the beginning of Free Speech Week, former Breitbart News editor, Ben Shapiro, is scheduled to speak on Sept. 14. According to an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, Shapiro said he welcomed anyone who wanted to protest his appearance.
In a nine-post Twitter thread, Shapiro asked Berkeley police to "do their jobs and stop violence."
Shapiro also address the protests that took place in Berkeley over the weekend in an article titled "Houston Is The Best Of America. Berkeley Is The Worst. Here's Why:"
"Over the weekend, we saw the best of America: Americans helping Americans in Houston. Race, creed, color — none of it mattered. Americans were in need, and other Americans moved to help them."
He continued: "Meanwhile, in Berkeley, we saw the worst of America: Americans, garbed in black, helmeted, wearing bandannas over their faces, assaulting peaceful protesters merely there to exercise their free speech rights. We saw the police stand down. We saw assaults in the streets."
He concluded: "So, what’s the difference between Americans in Houston and Americans in Berkeley? The existential threat."
Coulter also weighed in on Hurricane Harvey in a tweet quoting a Politico story referencing climate change.
"I don't believe Hurricane Harvey is God's punishment for Houston electing a lesbian mayor. But that is more credible than 'climate change.'"
Free Speech Week is scheduled to begin at UC Berkeley on Sunday, Sept. 24th.
1. Berkeley has agreed to host us. They say they support free speech.
2. They required us to pay a $15K security fee. (1/)— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) August 28, 2017
3. That means the police should damn well do their jobs and stop violence. No excuses.
4. ATTENDEES, DO NOT SHOW UP FOR VIOLENCE. (2/)— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) August 28, 2017
5. If the police refuse to do their jobs, or are told not to be administration or government figures, Congress should act. (3/)— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) August 28, 2017
6. Those who engage in political violence break the covenant of civilized society. The police must enforce that covenant. (4/)— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) August 28, 2017
7. The alt-right is repulsive. Antifa is repulsive. We should all stand together against political violence. Join us, Berkeley. (5/)— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) August 28, 2017