The mayor of the city known for being the epicenter of the free speech movement is now urging a university to cancel plans by a conservative group for a Free Speech Week in September -- the request coming after recent violent clashes in the city.
Mayor Jesse Arreguin told the San Francisco Chronicle Monday he didn't want the University of California, Berkeley "being used as a punching bag" in the wake of Antifa members' attack on conservative demonstrators.
“I am concerned about these groups using large protests to create mayhem," Arreguin told the newspaper.
A conservative campus group, called the Berkeley Patriot, is set to host controversial author Milo Yiannopoulos during its scheduled Free Speech Week from Sept. 24-27. The last time Yiannopoulos came to the university, his event was canceled because of violence on campus, which included the throwing of Molotov cocktails.
When asked during a subsequent interview with KTVU if it was fair for a conservative group to cancel its event when recent violence was caused by left-wing actors, the mayor said his concerns have nothing to do with the content of speech.
"If there was a far left speaker that was coming to Berkeley campus who we knew would draw extremist groups to clash, I would express the same concerns," he told KTVU.
While the mayor may want the event scuttled, school officials said UC Berkeley wasn’t the one extending the invitation, and doesn't have the right to "interfere with or cancel invitations based on the perspectives and beliefs of the speakers.”
"If the law is broken in the course of the event we will react immediately and appropriately, but we can't, based on a generalized concern, shut down speech before it occurs," UC Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof told KTVU. "The law and the Supreme Court have been absolutely clear on that front."
In addition to the appearance by Yiannopoulos, Berkeley Patriot is trying to convince Breitbart editor and former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon and conservative commentator Ann Coulter to appear during its Free Speech Week. Coulter cancelled an event planned on the campus in April amid threats of violence.