Ann Coulter didn’t show up in Berkeley, California, on Thursday — but hundreds of her supporters did.
After University of California Berkeley canceled the right-wing pundit’s scheduled Thursday appearance amid safety concerns, supporters of Coulter — and detractors who nonetheless defended her on the grounds of free speech — demonstrated in a downtown park Thursday in a largely peaceful protest.
“I don’t like Ann Coulter’s views but I don’t think in this case the right move was to shut her down,” Yevgeniy Melguy, a 24-year-old graduate student, told the Washington Post.
Opponents of Coulter were also present at the park with a banner reading, “It’s not about ‘free speech,’ it’s about bigots trying to normalize hate.”
But there were no violent clashes like the ones in February that led to the cancellation of another far-right provocateur, Milo Yiannopoulos.
UC Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof attributed that to an increased police presence at the rally.
“I think it’s clear that having a strong, visible police presence was important, both in terms of deterrence and law enforcement,” Mogulof told the Post. “This points to the challenges we face in the climate we’re living in.”
Protesters — some wearing flak jackets and helmets — criticized the university for canceling Coulter, accusing the “home of the free speech movement” of stifling the conservative troll’s ability to express her views.
“They tried to ban her and we can’t allow that. It’s unacceptable,” Vice co-founder Gavin McInnes said, according to the Post. “Free speech is about uncomfortable speech. Yes, it’s often about hate speech and it’s about speech that’s banned.”