Not much happens in Berkeley's MLK Civic Center Park after Coulter cancels

Dave Brooksher (BCN) and Planet
Thursday April 27, 2017 - 04:22:00 PM
The alt-right plays dress-up in Berkeley
Michael O'Malley
The alt-right plays dress-up in Berkeley

Hundreds of people are at a park in downtown Berkeley this afternoon, with the majority of the group gathering in protest of the cancellation of a speech that was planned today by conservative commentator Ann Coulter.

The rally at Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park remained peaceful, particularly in comparison to two recent similar protests at the park in March and earlier this month that led to dozens of arrests and violence between supporters of President Donald Trump and anti-fascist groups. 

Many in the crowd were simply curious, with some carrying signs that supported the concept of free speech but not the views of the rally's organizer.

Coulter had planned a speech today at University of California at Berkeley, but the student group Berkeley College Republicans canceled it on Wednesday, saying the university could not guarantee the event would be safe. 

Among the speakers at this afternoon's rally was Kyle Chapman, 41, of San Francisco, also known as "Based Stickman," who was arrested on suspicion of battery at one of the earlier rallies in Berkeley. 

"UC Berkeley tried to shut down free speech, but free speech is going to shut down Berkeley," Chapman said. 

A man who goes by the online moniker Baked Alaska said, "We love Ann Coulter, don't get me wrong, but this movement was here before Ann Coulter and will be here after." 

The crowd could be heard chanting "America for Americans" and "Donald Trump" at points during the rally. 

A separate, smaller rally was held earlier today near the UC Berkeley campus by the group International Socialist Organization in opposition to the "alt-right," an offshoot of conservatism characterized by white nationalism. 

At the larger rally at Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park, many police officers were in the area. Berkeley police said as of 3:30 p.m. that only two people had been arrested, one for a weapons violation and the other for drug possession. 

Nearby Berkeley High School dismissed students for the day at 3:30 p.m., and encouraged students via a public address system to avoid going to the park. Some young people nevertheless showed up to watch, but didn't engage with the speakers, who were still talking as of 4pm. The quality of their sound system was so poor that it was difficult to understand what they were saying.