College

Berkeley College Republicans explain lawsuit against university over Coulter

Conservative students see discrimination, administrators insist they are responding to safety concerns

 

One of the leaders of the College Republcans at the University of California, Berkeley, told Fox News the school's attempts to postone Ann Coulter's planned speech this Thursday represented just the latest efforts to silence conservative voices on campus.

ANN COULTER'S BACKERS AT BERKELEY FILE LAWSUIT

A legal team led by Harmeet Dhillon, a San Francisco attorney who represents the College Republicans, filed a lawsuit claiming Berkeley has violated students' rights to free speech, a claim that school officials have denied. They said they proposed an alternate date out of safety, citing threats of violence.

“Every week we’re harassed and attacked. I’ve been spit on. I’ve been punched. They’ve destroyed our signs,” Naweed Tahmas, the vice president and spokesman for the Berkeley College Republicans, said on "Fox & Friends."

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“One time I walked on campus and I saw flyers on campus with my face on it calling me a fascist, calling me a neo-Nazi,” Tahmas said. “I don’t know how many neo-Nazis you know that are named Naweed and have brown skin.”

A civil rights lawsuit has been filed with four claims of equal protection, due process and two first amendment claims on free speech, according to Dhillon. She is also a committeewoman to the Republican National Convention for California and former vice chairwoman of the California Republican Party.

UC Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof said the university's attorneys were reviewing the complaint but were confident that "we are on very solid legal grounds." The university and its police department have said they received credible intelligence of security concerns if the event goes ahead Thursday and they need to balance their need to allow free speech with the need to ensure campus security.

"The constitution permits the university to take such steps to protect public safety while facilitating expressive activities, and that is exactly what we are doing," Mogulof said.

“The Dalai Lama, the former president of Mexico, famous people come to Cal all the time to speak and they’re allowed to speak and their speech is not barred, their speech is not relegated to 1 to 3 p.m. Their speech is not relegated to being on campus. And their speech is not restricted to only students and their speech is not restricted to not being advertised. These are all unique requirements that are being imposed on conservative speakers at Cal,” Dhillon said.

Berkeley's chief attorney Christopher Patti wrote in a letter to Dhillon that university police and officials have determined neither the group's free speech nor the safety of the university's 36,000 students can be safeguarded on April 27, The Associated Press reported.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.