Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín wants Cal to cancel a planned appearance by conservative provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos on campus next month.
“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,” he told the San Francisco Chronicle.
The mayor’s office did not immediately respond Tuesday morning to a request for comment from this news organization. The mayor’s comments come in the wake of clashes Sunday in Berkeley between black-clad anti-fascist protesters known as Antifa and far-right supporters of President Donald Trump. Thirteen people were arrests in the skirmishes that generated headlines across the country.
UC Berkeley, the birthplace of the Free Speech Movement, has been the focus of controversy in recent months. Yiannopoulos was slated to speak on campus earlier this year, but the school pulled the plug on the talk when his supporters and protesters clashed violently, causing $100,000 in property damage.
“That is where we have to really be very careful, that while protecting people’s free speech rights, we are not putting our citizens in a potentially dangerous situation and costing the city hundreds of thousands of dollars fixing the windows of businesses,” the mayor said.
But it’s not that easy, said Cal spokesman Dan Mogulof. The student group Berkeley Patriot invited Yiannopoulos and the group is legally independent from the campus.
“We have neither the legal right or ability to interfere with or cancel their invitations based on the perspectives and beliefs of the speakers,” Mogulof said Tuesday. “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. We can assure you that those priorities, along with our commitment to Free Speech, remain at the center of our planning and priorities.”
Campus sources said the school has reached out to the mayor’s office in effort to clarify the school’s legal situation.
Yiannopoulos is just one of several conservative speakers who may show up on campus this fall. The same student group has also been in talks to bring the conservative commentators Ann Coulter and recently resigned White House strategist Steve Bannon to campus. A spokesman for the student group did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the status of those negotiations.
The Berkeley College Republicans have also invited the conservative commentator Ben Shapiro to speak in mid-September.
Cal’s new chancellor, Carol Christ, has said the 2017-18 school year will be a “free speech” year and has committed to hosting speakers with divergent viewpoints on campus.
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