UC Berkeley spent an estimated $600,000 on marshaling a massive police presence to deter violent protests outside a speech by Ben Shapiro last week. In a statement, the campus said the conservative radio host and UCLA grad’s speech went “off with barely a hitch.” Despite fears that Antifa protestors would appear en masse, the campus protest, which drew about one thousand in opposition of Shapiro, was peaceful. Nonetheless, police made nine arrests, mostly stemming from a new City of Berkeley regulation granting the city the power to temporarily ban certain items from public spaces. As the New York Times noted, it’s a sign of the times that Shapiro’s April 2016 appearance attracted little protest.
Coverage of the event in the mainstream press and among left-leaning websites was extensive, with journalists wrestling over how to balance free speech, student safety and the ever-slimming pocketbooks of higher learning institutions. Coverage on the right before the event occurred was prominent, usually framed around the perception of an effort by universities to limit conservative speech. However, after the event’s peaceful conclusion, right-wing coverage was more muted, especially in comparison to reporting on the chaotic scenes at cancelled speeches last academic year. One thing that did not receive a lot of attention in any venue is what Shapiro actually said in his “Say No to Campus Thuggery” event. Watch his full talk, including a Q&A session, here.
Attention has now turned to a so-called “Free Speech Week” planned to run from September 24 to 27, in which a number of conservative icons may appear on campus. The event is spearheaded by Milo Yiannopoulos and is also set to include Steve Bannon and Ann Coulter. Some outlets have questioned whether the event will actually occur, pointing to what appears to be a slapdash approach to logistics by the student group sponsoring the event. According to the New York Times:
Dan Mogulof, a spokesman for the university, said Tuesday that the event’s organizers had not submitted any of the information or forms required for the university to provide security: a description of the events, for example, and a police services request form. The requirements are outlined in Berkeley’s events policy, he noted, and “they just have not completed any of that.”
9/15 – Price Tag to Protect Speech at Berkeley: $600,000 (NYT): The brief article focuses on the cost of the event, and includes a number of photographs, one of which seems to portray a small counter-protest (in support of Shapiro) outside the event.
9/14 – Press Release: Shapiro event goes off with barely a hitch (BerkeleyNews): “We have no regrets for having assembled the forces that we did and for providing police with the resources they requested,” a campus spokesperson said. “It certainly didn’t hurt, and there is reason to believe that it deterred those who might have come with mal intent.”
9/14 – 9 arrested in connection with protests of UC Berkeley Ben Shapiro event (DailyCal): The article contains a list of the nine people arrested, specifying the relevant charges for each.
9/15 – Nine people arrested at Ben Shapiro event at UC Berkeley (SJMN): According to the article, there were no reports of injury of property damage. The article calls the police presence “unparalleled,” noting officers were drawn from all 10 UC campuses.
9/15 – UC-Berkeley braced for protests when conservative writer Ben Shapiro came to campus (WaPo): The article notes the City of Berkeley’s councilors voted to allow police to use pepper spray should things get out of hand.
9/15 – The cost of free speech isn’t cheap at UC Berkeley (AP): The article calls Berkeley a “famously liberal university.” The article notes Berkeley has declined to specify how many officers were called in.
9/14 -Hundreds Protest Conservative Speaker At UC Berkeley; Several Arrested (CBS/AP): BFA Chair Michael Burawoy is quoted as saying:
“There are faculty who don’t think the campus should be the site of this, what they call, political circus…We bring them on campus and allow them to speak and we encourage both right- and left-wing groups” to hold potentially violent protests. “If we exclude them, they say Berkeley doesn’t believe in free speech. It’s a lose-lose situation.”
9/15 – Ben Shapiro’s Berkeley speech wasn’t met with the violence he expected (Slate): The article notes Shapiro referred to affirmative action policies as racist. It also notes Shapiro was an opponent of President Trump’s campaign and left Breitbart for what he perceived to be an unfair bias in support of Trump’s campaign.
9/15 – Ben Shapiro speaks at UC Berkeley despite arrests and protests (FoxNews): The article highlights how some protestors accused Shapiro, who is Jewish, of being a neo-Nazi and white supremacist.
9/15 – Latest Berkeley Protest is Largely Peaceful Amid Heavy Police Presence (WSJ): The Journal article contrasts the peacefulness of the event with previous right wing talks.
9/13 – UC Berkeley free speech in spotlight over super-tight security plans (SFChronicle): The article questions what kind of a precedent the heavy security sets for the campus:
Ben Shapiro, a conservative speaker headed to UC Berkeley on Thursday evening, hasn’t mocked feminists, as right-wing performer Milo Yiannopoulos has done. He hasn’t boasted of being a “mean-spirited bigot,” as far-right author Ann Coulter has done. And, unlike Steve Bannon, ex-adviser to President Trump, Shapiro doesn’t even like the president.
Yet the Harvard Law School graduate, author and political commentator has drawn unprecedented security measures at UC Berkeley for his sold-out speech at the campus’ many-windowed Zellerbach Hall, and Berkeley city police have received permission from the City Council to use pepper spray on any violent protesters who show up.
These defense measures around a standard-issue conservative whose idea of provocative is to call California a “nut-job leftist state” spotlight this question: How left must a speaker be to avoid causing a riot in Berkeley?
9/12 – Editorial: A Political Conservative Goes to Berkeley (NYT): The editorial contrasts the rhetoric of the left-wing protestors opposing Shapiro to the anti-semitic vitriol Shapiro has endured from the alt-right.
9/16 – Op-Ed: Memo to UC Berkeley students: Free speech is the best weapon against the alt-right (LATimes): The author urges campuses to allow alt-right speakers a platform, as their rhetoric will collapse under its own contradictions.
9/15 – Editorial: The Price of Free Speech at Berkeley (WSJ): The editorial says Berkeley’s decision to provide security for Shapiro was a “democratic service,” if an overly expensive one.
Free Speech Week
9/16 – Napolitano pledges to uphold UC’s free-speech tradition (SFGate): Acknowledging that the line between protected speech and hate speech (or harassment) is hard to define, UC President Napolitano told an audience, “If we at UC unreasonably limit the ability of speakers like Milo Yiannopoulos and Ann Coulter to safely express themselves on our campuses, we are telling the world that we would accept suppression of our own speech.”
9/15 – UC Berkeley professors urge campus boycott during ‘Free Speech Week’ (SFChronicle): A letter has called for a boycott to ensure student safety during the planned event. The petition cites a slew of violent actions that have occurred during such gatherings, including the death of a woman in Charlottesville who was protesting a gathering of white supremacists.
9/15 – Column: Berkeley’s Bind (Slate): The column notes a letter being circulated by the Anthropology Department, which was forced by campus leaders to rescheduled a lecture due to the disruption the event is projected to cause.
9/15 – Speaking at Berkeley With Milo Yiannopoulos? It’s News to Them (Chronicle): The organization behind the event appears to be in disarray. For example, Scholar Charles Murray, who recently had a talk interrupted by left-wing protestors, was listed as a speaker. Murray said he never had plans to attend, saying Yiannopoulos is “a despicable asshole.”
9/12 – Bannon Will Address Berkeley, a Hotbed of Conflict Over Free Speech (NYT): The campus has said student organizers of the event have failed to communicate specific plans with the university, which could jeopardize their ability to host speakers.
9/15 – The Far Right’s “Free Speech” Fest at UC-Berkeley Looks Unlikely to Happen (MotherJones): The article notes that despite the hype, it is unlikely student organizers will be able to meet campus requirements for hosting speakers.
9/15 – Berkeley-Con includes Bannon, Coulter, Milo — but will they show? (SJMN): The article notes one scheduled speaker, Pamela Geller, is a leader of the racist anti-Muslim movement.