Battle for Berkeley: Will Ann Coulter spark another clash?

The word “CANCELED” is printed across a poster of Ann Coulter’s face at the University of California, Berkeley. But that appears to be wishful thinking.

The campus is bracing for trouble next week, when the conservative provocateur has vowed to speak in defiance of the university’s wishes. Officials, police and even the campus Republicans who invited Coulter say there is reason to fear violence in what is being called the Battle for Berkeley.

Berkeley’s reputation as one of the country’s most liberal universities, in one of America’s most liberal cities, has made it a flashpoint for the nation’s political divisions in the era of Donald Trump.

The campus and the city itself have become a target for militant right-wing organizations that have clashed in recent months with militant left-wing or anarchist groups from the San Francisco Bay Area.

Both favor hoods to conceal their identities and a variety of weapons, including Molotov cocktails, brass knuckles and soda cans filled with concrete.

UC Berkeley has been synonymous with protest from the earliest days of the 1960s Free Speech Movement, when students fought for the right to speak out and set off a wave of campus activism around the country.

But officials say what they’re seeing now does not involve students and is a new type of extremely violent protest.

“There is no doubt that over the last few months the city and campus have become a stage upon which national political conflicts are playing out,” said university spokesman Dan Mogulof. “We are in new and challenging times. I don’t think we’ve seen anybody who has cracked the code here.”

Last weekend, bloody street brawls broke out in downtown Berkeley at a pro-Trump protest that featured speeches by members of the white nationalist right. They clashed with a group of Trump critics who called themselves anti-fascists.

Police arrested 20 people and said dozens were injured. They confiscated bats, knives, bear spray, pepper spray and other weapons, according to police.

Similar violent clashes also erupted at the same site, a public park, on March 4.

And in February, protesters smashed campus windows, set fires and hurled firebombs at police, forcing the cancellation of a speech…

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