Berke­ley po­lice pre­serve calm for con­ser­va­tive

Just two ar­rests made be­fore Shapiro speech

Las Vegas Review-Journal - - NATION - By Sud­hin Thanawala The As­so­ci­ated Press

BERKE­LEY, Calif. — Po­lice in riot gear ringed the cam­pus of the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Berke­ley and sur­round­ing streets Thurs­day, mak­ing sure a smat­ter­ing of protesters were kept away from dozens of peo­ple who lined up to hear a con­ser­va­tive speaker at the fa­mously lib­eral uni­ver­sity.

A hand­ful of peo­ple chanted “shame, shame, shame” at those headed into the speech by for­mer Bre­it­bart edi­tor Ben Shapiro. Oth­ers held signs protest­ing the uni­ver­sity’s de­ci­sion to host him.

Only two ar­rests were re­ported be­fore the speech be­gan. Peo­ple were taken into cus­tody for bat­tery on a po­lice of­fi­cer and car­ry­ing a banned weapon.

Hun­dreds of oth­ers gath­ered just to watch the scene un­fold on the cam­pus that was on vir­tual lock­down much of the day.

Streets were closed and con­crete bar­ri­ers were erected in what many saw as the lat­est po­lar­iz­ing event to raise con­cerns about vi­o­lence in the city.

Au­thor­i­ties sealed off Sproul Plaza — the cen­tral hub of the cam­pus — and cre­ated a perime­ter around sev­eral build­ings, in­clud­ing the site where Shapiro was set to speak to about 1,000 peo­ple who re­ceived free tick­ets.

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

Spencer Brown, a spokesman for Young Amer­ica’s Foun­da­tion, the group or­ga­niz­ing Shapiro’s lec­ture se­ries, “Cam­pus Thug­gery,” said there should be few prob­lems if po­lice backed up their show of force.

Nick Han­d­ley, 18, a high school se­nior from Modesto, about 85 miles east of Berke­ley, was among those lined up to see Shapiro. He said he tried to get other peo­ple to come with him, but they were afraid about po­ten­tial vi­o­lence.

“It re­ally is sad,” he said, re­fer­ring to the heavy po­lice pres­ence. “This is tax­payer money. It’s ter­ri­ble they have to have this be­cause a speaker wants to share his views.”

UC Berke­ley spokesman Dan Mogulof es­ti­mated se­cu­rity costs could hit $600,000 for the event. He said the school was com­mit­ted to en­sur­ing the safety of stu­dents and peo­ple at­tend­ing the event, and to mak­ing it suc­cess­ful.

Po­lice and UC Berke­ley of­fi­cials were crit­i­cized last Fe­bru­ary for giv­ing de­mon­stra­tors wide lat­i­tude and stand­ing aside as an­ar­chists hurled Molo­tov cock­tails at of­fi­cers and caused $100,000 worth of dam­age dur­ing a planned speech by right-wing provo­ca­teur Milo Yiannopou­los. The event was can­celed.

Thurs­day’s event was be­ing seen as a test run for later in the month, when Yiannopou­los plans to re­turn to cam­pus for what he is call­ing a “Free Speech Week” on cam­pus fea­tur­ing con­ser­va­tive com­men­ta­tor Ann Coul­ter and Steve Ban­non, ex­chief strate­gist for President Don­ald Trump who has re­turned to Bre­it­bart News.

Cam­pus of­fi­cials say that event is not yet con­firmed.

Josh Edel­son

The As­so­ci­ated Press Po­lice of­fi­cers gather be­hind a bar­ri­cade Thurs­day be­fore a speak­ing en­gage­ment by Ben Shapiro on the cam­pus of the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Berke­ley.

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