Thursday, April 26, 2018

Berkeley Speech Lawsuit

Conservative groups at UC Berkeley can sue the school over the restrictions it placed on high-profile speakers after violent protests over the planned appearance of right-wing firebrand Milo Yiannopoulos, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

U.S. District Judge Maxine Chesney of Oakland upheld the university’s contention that it was motivated by security, not liberal bias, when it scheduled talks by other conservative luminaries in smaller and more remote campus locations than they preferred. But Chesney said the Berkeley College Republicans and Young America’s Foundation could proceed with their suit over university standards for “high-profile” speakers, imposed after the Yiannopoulos protests and over alleged discrimination in security fees.

Yiannopoulos’ February 2017 speech was canceled after a student demonstration was taken over by masked protesters who smashed windows and set fires. He spoke for a few minutes on campus in September in an event that conservatives had promoted as “free speech week.”

The conservative groups said two more planned speakers, writer David Horowitz and author and television commentator Ann Coulter, had to cancel their appearances last year because university officials rescheduled their evening talks to daytime hours at buildings far from the center of campus. Radio host Ben Shapiro, supported by the same groups, spoke at UC Berkeley in September after paying a security fee that was challenged in the suit.

The suit alleged that the university adopted an unwritten “high-profile speaker policy” in March 2017 that allowed officials to effectively censor conservative speakers by choosing the time and place of their appearance. The school contends it is entitled to determine the need for security measures, but Chesney said the conservative groups can try to prove that the policy gives officials too much leeway to restrict free expression...

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