- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 27, 2017

Ann Coulter’s decision to walk away from a speaking engagement scheduled for Thursday evening at the University of California in Berkeley amid safety concerns and a rekindled free-speech debate has provoked another far-right speaker to plot a campus appearance of their own.

Richard Spencer, a controversial white nationalist widely affiliated with the so-called “alt-right” movement, vowed Wednesday to speak at Berkeley this year after Ms. Coulter canceled Thursday’s scheduled appearance in the face of planned campus protests.

“I will absolutely go to #Berkeley within the next year,” Mr. Spencer tweeted Wednesday in the wake of Ms. Coulter’s cancelation.

“Conservatives” like Ms. Coulter, he added, “are ultimately weaklings who need to be displaced.”

Despite vowing days earlier to speak at Berkeley this week, Ms. Coulter said Wednesday she was driven to cancel the event upon losing support from conservative groups and campus organizers in the face of her presence prompting likely protests.

“It’s a sad day for free speech,” the conservative firebrand told the New York Times Wednesday.

“Is not a ‘sad day for free speech,’ Ann. It’s a sad day for ‘conservatives.’ Your movement is a collection of cowards,” responded Mr. Spencer, the president of the National Policy Institute, a white nationalist think tank.

Berkeley and Mr. Spencer have each found themselves at the center of free speech debates as of late on account of recent events and demonstrations related to either. President Trump threatened in February to withhold federal funds from Berkeley after protesters and anti-fascist demonstrators rioted outside a building where controversial alt-right figure Milo Yiannopoulos was scheduled to speak.

Last week, meanwhile, a federal judge in Alabama ordered Auburn University to let Mr. Spencer speak on campus after a planned address of his own was canceled by administrators over similar safety concerns. Protests erupted as expected, and three people were ultimately arrested and charged with disorderly conduct outside the event.

Young America’s Foundation, the organizations of Thursday’s previously scheduled event at Berkeley, withdrew support Tuesday, citing the safety of staff and students.

“Everyone who should believe in free speech fought against it or ran away,” Ms. Coulter said afterwards.

“I think I’m still going to Berkeley, but there will be no speech,” she told Fox News Wednesday.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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