Op-Ed: When a Berkeley Law debate on free speech got turned into a social media circus
by Paul Lienhart
There’s a debate on free speech and Berkeley. And it’s getting heated.
The city’s Berkeley City Council is trying to stop a Berkeley city ordinance that would protect against “sanctuary cities.”
The ordinance was a compromise between supporters and opponents of sanctuary cities — cities that don’t fully cooperate with ICE authorities.
But city council members are now demanding a formal meeting to discuss the matter.
And the meeting is now getting a lot of public attention across the country.
“This is a terrible decision by the city council,” said former U.S. Attorney Tom Lynch, on Twitter.
It’s a similar story in Berkeley.
“This is a terrible decision by city council,” said city spokesperson Janet Gilmore, in a tweet.
But this story is nowhere near done.
Free speech advocates took the issue to City Council after the vote to prohibit sanctuary cities on March 23. They’re planning a press conference and protest on April 12 outside City Hall.
“This is dangerous legislation that could impact our entire community,” said Brian Brown, a representative of the Committee to Defend the First Amendment, a national law firm helping to free speech.
“It’s not an issue of immigration. I don’t believe the city of Berkeley is protecting criminals or the criminal-justice system.”
A month earlier, Berkeley city officials agreed to the compromise.
During the meeting, city staff presented a proposal to City Council to allow Berkeley to be a “sanctuary city,” which means that police can ask someone for their immigration status to protect their safety or to respond to an emergency, with their federal immigration status confidential.
If police refuse to honor this request, an individual could be arrested and deported, or they could face the loss of their federal grant.
The meeting happened in a tense atmosphere as an angry group of opponents confronted a supportive group of supporters protesting at City Hall.
“I’m here on a mission to stop sanctuary cities, and I’m going to do it,” one of the supporters