Berkeley protests peaceful as hundreds rally over Coulter

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Marcio Jose Sanchez/ AP Demonstrators hold indications and flags Thursday, April 27, 2017, in Berkeley, Calif. Demonstrators gathered near the University of California, Berkeley campus amidst a strong authorities existence and rallied to show support for free speech and condemn the views of Ann Coulter and her advocates.

Thursday, April 27, 2017|5:55 p.m.

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BERKELEY, Calif.– Hundreds of people waving American flags and shouting “U.S.A” gathered peacefully Thursday for a rally at a park in Berkeley– house of the totally free speech movement– to oppose a canceled appearance by conservative commentator Ann Coulter.

Cops in riot equipment had prepared for possible violence in between advocates and opponents of Coulter, however there were no major fights as the raucous rally involved the late afternoon.

Still, Berkeley trainee Joseph Pagadara, 19, said he had actually been stressed over violence and added that the university is captured in the middle of the nation’s political divide.

“Both sides are so intolerant of each other. We are a divided nation. We have to pay attention to each other but we’re each caught in our own bubbles,” he said.

As for Coulter, Pagadara stated the university must have let her speak. “Now she’s making herself appear like the victim and Berkeley like the bad people,” he said.

University police set up barricades and refused to let any protesters get in the school. 6 individuals were apprehended– one for obstructing an officer and using a mask to evade police, and another for having a knife.

Coulter formerly said she was forced to cancel a speaking event at the University of California, Berkeley, although she added that she may still “visit to state hello” to her supporters, triggering cops and university officials to brace for possible difficulty. She was not found at the rally.

Several hundred individuals collected for the afternoon occasion supporting Coulter at Martin Luther King, Jr. Civic Center Park in downtown Berkeley.

“It’s a pity that somebody can’t speak in the home of the complimentary speech movement,” stated Wilson Grafstrom, an 18-year-old high school trainee from Menlo Park.

He used a military grade helmet with a “Make America Great Again” sticker label across the back, safety glasses, gas mask and knee pads. He blamed people opposed to Coulter and President Donald Trump for forcing him to prepare for issues.

Numerous at the park about a mile (1.6 kilometers) from the university’s primary Sproul Plaza likewise wore such helmets and body armor. Some had “Construct That Wall” or Trump sticker labels across their headgear. One guy had duct tape reading “Berkeley” over his mouth.

The stress illustrates how Berkeley has emerged as a flashpoint for severe left and best forces amid the dispute over complimentary speech in a location where the 1960s U.S. totally free speech movement began before it infected college campuses across the nation.

While the afternoon rally ended without severe dispute, police at one point formed a human wall in the street separating anti-Trump protesters from the park where pro-Trump groups were gathered.

Anti-Coulter protesters at the park held a banner that read: “It’s not about ‘totally free speech,’ it has to do with bigots aiming to normalize hate.”

Previously in the day, dozens of cops using flak coats and carrying 40 mm launchers that shoot “foam batons” flanked Sproul Plaza while a little group of protesters condemning Coulter staged a small rally outside school.

Officers took selfies with students in an effort to lighten the mood.

Gavin McInnes, co-founder of Vice Media and founder of the pro-Trump “Proud Boys,” spoke at the park gathering later on in the day. He said America does not have a responsibility to take people from other nations.

“We are here due to the fact that Ann Coulter got canceled,” he stated. “She is among the most motivating authors in America today. She is an American hero.”

On its Facebook page, the group calls itself a fraternal company focused on “renewing a spirit of Western chauvinism throughout an age of globalism and multiculturalism.” It stated it supports very little government and is likewise anti-political accuracy, anti-racial guilt and pro-gun rights.

In e-mails to The Associated Press on Wednesday, Coulter validated that her scheduled speech on illegal migration, followed by a question-answer session, was canceled. But she stayed coy about what she may do rather.

“I thought I might walk around the graveyard of the First Change,” Coulter said in an email.

Officials at UC Berkeley said recently they feared restored violence on school if Coulter followed through with strategies to speak. They pointed out “extremely specific intelligence” of dangers that could threaten Coulter and students.

Chancellor Nicholas B. Dirks sent a letter to the school Wednesday saying the university is devoted to safeguarding free speech however also to protecting its trainees.

“This is a university, not a battlefield,” Dirks said in the letter.

Previously this month, a bloody brawl broke out in downtown Berkeley at a pro-Trump protest that included speeches by members of the white nationalist right. They clashed with a group of Trump critics who called themselves anti-fascists.

In February, violent protesters required the cancellation of a speech by conservative writer Milo Yiannopoulos, who like Coulter was welcomed by school Republicans.

Associated Press writer Kristin J. Bender contributed to this report from San Francisco.

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