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Protesters Arrested As Conservative Author Ann Coulter Makes Berkeley Appearance

BERKELEY (KPIX 5) -- Some were arrested as hundreds of demonstrators gathered at UC Berkeley to protest a speech Wednesday night by conservative author Ann Coulter, once again igniting a debate on campus about what "free speech" means.

Multiple masked protesters were arrested before the event started, UC Berkeley police said around 8:20 p.m., although officials didn't give an exact number. Coulter's event started at 9 p.m. in Wheeler Hall.

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At least seven people were arrested. University spokesperson Dan Mogulof said as of about 10 p.m. that he did not know what the protesters were arrested for. One of the protesters was arrested inside the event.

Moments into Coulter's speech, a woman in the audience began yelling loudly. Security personnel surrounded her, put her in handcuffs and escorted her out of the hall.

Hundreds of protesters outside tried to prevent Coulter from giving her speech, even pushing hard against people trying to get inside the venue.

Police put up a large wall and a water-filled heavy barricade around the building, keeping protesters as well as audience members from getting inside for quote some time.

After 11 p.m., KPIX reporter Joe Vazquez said there were no notable clashes with police outside. There was no destruction of campus property.

It was in 1964, on the steps of Sproul Hall at UC Berkeley, that the Free Speech Movement was said to have been born. Back then, and throughout the Vietnam War, the speech there was loud, often rude and almost always inflammatory.

The debate is still happening today. It has just changed parties.

"Gang rape, child rape, incest rape. We are bringing in peasant cultures…" is the kind of rhetoric that has made political commentator Ann Coulter a lightning rod of the far right. It sells a lot of books and -- on a liberal campus like UC Berkeley -- stirs up a lot of emotion.

"People will die because of the speech of people like Ann Coulter!" shouted Atlas Winfrey through a bullhorn.

He is part of a group called Refuse Fascism that was on campus Wednesday afternoon, questioning whether Coulter should even be allowed to appear there.

"She should be prevented from speaking," Winfrey said. "And, again, that is because of the fact that real people will die, one, and two, these aren't just some ideas and views. These are the actual policies that are being advanced from the White House."

Coulter was scheduled to speak at Cal in 2017, but after violent protests over another conservative speaker, Milo Yiannopoulos, Coulter cancelled her speech. She was appearing Wednesday night at the invitation of the Berkeley Campus Republicans.

"Even if people dislike her, they talk about her policies, they talk about why she shouldn't be here. And that's discussion, in and of itself, that we like to see," said Cal Republican student Aniruth Kasthuri.

"There should be opportunity for all people to speak about what they think," said student Brighten Drake.

When asked if she considered that the "Berkeley" way, she replied, "I think that's MY Berkeley way!"

On Wednesday, Hannah Adams was with a group of students recruiting for Amnesty International and campaigning against the separation of immigrant families. She believes there's a reason Coulter would come to the unfriendly confines of UC Berkeley.

"I think she's just doing it to make a statement, because she's so radical," Adams said.

Things have changed on the UC Berkeley campus over the years. It is now the conservatives who are seen as being "radical." What was true back in the turbulent '60s is still true today; for speech to be free, it doesn't have to be polite.

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