COULTER CAL PROTEST: Demonstrations mostly peaceful; 7 arrested

BERKELEY, Calif. (KGO) -- Ann Coulter was a no-show in Berkeley today, but that didn't stop several groups of demonstrators from showing up to denounce what they called an attempt to silence her.

Those demonstrators say they were taking the place of the conservative commentator and standing up for free speech.

RELATED: Police prepare for violence at Berkeley demonstrations

Coulter said that her planned speech on illegal immigration, followed by a question-answer session at the UC Berkeley campus was canceled. She appeared on FOX News as the demonstrators rallied in Berkeley. "The theme of it obviously it was going to be searingly brilliant speech on immigration, but the main point of which was that federal written law on immigration developed over generations by both democrats and republicans should be enforced," she said.

At the height of today's demonstration there were around 200 people at the event representing a variety of groups, some self-described as alt right. They included Oath Keepers and bikers for Trump. Several explained they attended as a reaction to the cancellation of Coulter's planned speech. There were a number of speakers, including several from southern California.

PHOTOS: Groups protest in Berkeley over Ann Coulter

Students on the Cal campus were left wondering what the fuss was all about. "It is confusing and hard to understand. Not really an argument about free speech Or keeping the peace. It is a lot of absurdities," one student said.

The police presence was initially large, and visible and many of those who came to the rally work helmets, masks, and in some cases protective padding. Others who showed up at the park didn't agree with the message, but supported the method.

"I don't agree with everything Ann Coulter says. I agree with some of what she says. I don't agree with everything Trump does, but free speech is important because where do you hash out the good ideas from the bad ideas?" lawyer Jonathan Paull said.

VIDEO: Sky7 above Berkeley demonstrations over Ann Coulter
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Demonstrations got underway early Thursday in Berkeley over Ann Coulter. Here's a look at video from Sky7 as protesters started to gather and police began preparations early Thursday afternoon.

There were moments of tension where a shouting match between two people broke out with a man on one side, a woman on the other and a crowd around them that ended with a handshake.

"I believe if people want to make fools of themselves in public, I'm all in favor of it - it saves the rest of us from having to expose them as fools, so everybody wins," Berkeley editorial writer Becky O'Malley said.

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Coulter had hinted that she might show up in Berkeley anyway but there was no sign of her. She was scheduled to have a private event in the Bay Area tonight, and perhaps one in Modesto.

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