Conservative author calls activists who tried to block speakers ‘pieces of garbage’
Police made four arrests, a large crowd of protesters rallied, and a nearby building was occupied, but otherwise Ben Shapiro’s speech Thursday night at the University of California Berkeley went off without the mayhem that has plagued recent conservative events.
Inside Zellerbach Hall, the conservative author and pundit received an enthusiastic reception from students and others, including several who said during the Q&A session that they disagreed with him on many issues but supported his right to speak.
“The reason I am here is because fascism does not own this university, because there are students who do want to hear differing views, who don’t want to be told that they can only hear one view, and who don’t believe the First Amendment should die under the jackboots and Birkenstocks of a bunch of anarchist, communist pieces of garbage,” said Mr. Shapiro to applause.
Outside, a crowd estimated at more than 1,000 chanted slogans and cheered speakers who denounced Mr. Shapiro as a fascist, while a group of protesters briefly occupied the nearby Martin Luther King Jr. Center, according to Berkeleyside.
Four people were arrested primarily bringing banned weapons into a six-block zone near the hall, which was heavily patrolled by campus officers and Berkeley police.
Some of the protest signs called Mr. Shapiro a Nazi and an alt-right figure. Mr. Shapiro is Jewish and, according to the Anti-Defamation League, is one of the journalists most targeted by anti-Semitic harassment in 2016. At one point in his speech, he even pointed to his yarmulke.
At the start of his speech, which was livestreamed, Mr. Shapiro thanked the police for their “amazing job,” saying they “stand between us and darkness.”
“Conservatives here have done something amazing, they’ve achieved something incredible,” Mr. Shapiro said. “If you look outside, there’s K-bar everywhere, they’ve built basically these structures to keep antifa from invading the premises, so that means Berkeley has achieved building a wall before Donald Trump did.”
He said there were some empty seats inside the hall despite a line of people who waited outside for stand-by tickets, but acknowledged the university’s redoubled efforts to secure the event in order to avoid another cancellation of a conservative speaker on campus.
Rioting forced the cancellation of a Feb. 1 speech by Milo Yiannopoulos, which resulted in an estimated $100,000 in damage to the campus, as well as the scuttling in advance of speeches by Ann Coulter and David Horowitz over security concerns.
At a press conference prior to the Thursday speech, Cal spokesman Dan Mogulof said additional security for the Shapiro speech could cost the university as much as $600,000.
Berkeley College Republicans and Young America’s Foundation, which sponsored the speech, agreed to pay $15,873 for basic security costs at the hall, which seats nearly 2,000, according to the Daily Californian.
Antifa groups posted comments on Twitter indicating that they had activists within the hall and challenging some of Mr. Shapiro’s positions, such as his statement that people can avoid poverty by finishing high school, marrying before they have children, and getting a job.
“Be successful by finishing high school, marrying before having children & HAVING A JOB?” said Boston Antifa in a tweet. “F– your #HateFacts @benshapiro.”
Before the speech, Boston Antifa posted a short video with the message, “Ben Shapiro, you are NOT WELCOME at @UCBerkeley. Berkeley is no place for conservative or free speech!
Antifa Berkeley tweeted, “We’re at the event. Nazis beware.”
Kyle Chapman, a self-described American Nationalist who has appeared at free-speech events, told Mr. Shapiro that “the Proud Boys are here, we’ve got your back, man,” and asked about racism against whites.
Mr. Shapiro said that anyone could be racist, not just whites, and that he disagreed with race-based laws such as affirmative action, but that “I want to be careful of identity politics on all sides.”
“I think that the big mistake we have to be careful not to make is to start identifying as our quote unquote group identity just because other people want to box us in,” he said. “We’re individuals, right?”
Mr. Shapiro didn’t couch his criticism of antifa activists, who were widely criticized for attacking Trump supporters at an Aug. 27 melee in Berkeley.
“Thanks to the Antifa and the supposed anti-fascist brigade for exposing what the radical left truly is,” Mr. Shapiro said. “All of America is watching because you guys are so stupid. It’s horrifying, I am grateful, and you can all go to hell, you pathetic, lying, stupid jackasses.”
Source: Washington Times