UC Berke­ley closes streets amid con­cerns about vi­o­lence

Imperial Valley Press - - NEWS -

BERKE­LEY ( AP) — Sev­eral streets around the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Berke­ley, were closed off Thurs­day with con­crete and plas­tic bar­ri­ers ahead of an evening ap­pear­ance by a con­ser­va­tive com­men­ta­tor — the lat­est po­lar­iz­ing event to raise con­cerns of vi­o­lence on the fa­mously lib­eral cam­pus.

Author­i­ties sealed off Sproul Plaza — the cen­tral hub of the cam­pus — and cre­ated a perime­ter around sev­eral build­ings, in­clud­ing the site where Ben Shapiro, a for­mer editor of Bre­it­bart News, was set to speak to a sold-out au­di­ence of 1,000 peo­ple.

Shapiro was in­vited to speak by cam­pus Repub­li­cans, who say the lib­eral univer­sity sti­fles the voice of con­ser­va­tive speak­ers.

The city and cam­pus have be­come a flash­point this year for the coun­try’s po­lit­i­cal di­vi­sions, draw­ing ex­trem­ist groups from the left and right.

“We can’t turn a blind eye to re­al­ity and to what we’ve learned from re­cent events on this cam­pus and in this city and around the coun­try,” UC Berke­ley spokesman Dan Mogulof said. He said the school is com­mit­ted to en­sur­ing the safety of stu­dents and peo­ple at­tend­ing the event, and to mak­ing it suc­cess­ful.

There will be sev­eral check­points out­side the au­di­to­rium where the speech is planned, and of­fi­cers will be look­ing to con­fis­cate banned items such as shields, masks, ban­danas, poles and torches, UC Berke­ley Po­lice Chief Mar- go Ben­nett said.

For the first time in two decades, city of­fi­cers were au­tho­rized by the City Coun­cil to use pep­per spray to con­trol vi­o­lence.

Univer­sity po­lice do not in­tend to use pep­per spray but “that’s not say­ing we won’t if cir­cum­stances call for them,” Ben­nett said.

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