Ann Coulter a no-show at raucous but peaceful Berkeley rally

Competing demonstrations in support of and against conservative commentator Ann Coulter's controversial speech, which had been planned for Thursday at the University of California, Berkeley, were held amid a heavy police presence.

Several dozen police officers surrounded Sproul Plaza on the campus and refused to let protesters enter. Seven people were arrested, including one for obstructing an officer and wearing a mask to evade police, and another for possessing a knife.

Police in riot gear had prepared for possible violence between supporters and opponents of Coulter, but there were no major confrontations as the raucous rally wrapped up in the late afternoon.

Indeed, social media feeds of militant left-wing and right-wing activists remained abuzz with vows to proceed with demonstrations and counter-demonstrations over the Coulter-Berkeley controversy.

"I'm not speaking. But I'm going to be near there, so I might swing by to say hello to my supporters who have flown in from all around the country", Coulter said in an email.

Police said officers confiscated numerous weapons during the course of the day. Further, Berkeley's new mayor has sided with groups like Antifa, which she nicknamed "anti-First Amendment". They clashed with a group of Trump critics who called themselves anti-fascists.

The American Civil Liberties Union's national legal director says "unacceptable threats of violence" that led to the cancellation of Ann Coulter's speech at the University of California, Berkeley are inconsistent with free speech principles that protect people from government overreach.

"That's not about free speech", the CNN host said. Civic Center Park, at times outnumbering demonstrators. And that's the same park near downtown Berkeley that has been the site of violent and bloody clashes between the left and the right.

"We now have a green light on this operation, and we call on you to step up with us and help us once again defend free speech", wrote the group's founder, Stewart Rhodes, in a Facebook post on Wednesday. Coulter planned to give a speech on illegal immigration.

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Another group held signs saying "refuse fascism".

Demonstrators in support of U.S. President Donald Trump rally in Berkeley, California in Berkeley, California, U.S., April 15, 2017.

Her supporters and students on the UC Berkeley campus, many of whom expressed distaste for Coulter's political views, voiced frustration that she didn't get to speak and that the university's reputation as a bastion of tolerance was suffering. It is certainly inequitable that the victims of the protestors-the groups who sponsor the speakers whose events are disrupted-now have to bear the cost for the actual or imagined unlawful behavior of protestors who have chose to suppress thought they hate.

The high-profile conservative pundit's off-again, on-again, off-again speech for Thursday at UC Berkeley was canceled for fear of violent protests, and in the end she never showed.

"It's sickening when a radical thuggish institution like Berkeley can so easily snuff out the cherished American right to free speech", tweeted Coulter on Wednesday.

Police and university officials have said they were bracing for trouble whether or not she decides to show.

And in March and April, opposing groups from the far-right and far-left skirmished violently near campus.

Coulter was invited to speak by campus Republicans, who also had invited right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulous to speak in February.

  • Sidney Guerrero