The Berkeley City Council voted to allow city police to use pepper spray on violent protesters Tuesday, just days before expected protests against conservative commentator Ben Shapiro’s Sept. 14 appearance in the college town.
Police at the University of California, Berkeley had been prohibited from using pepper spray for 20 years, but repeated political unrest throughout 2017 forced the city council’s hand in a 6-3 vote Tuesday, the Associated Press reported. Violent protests have erupted in the town in February, March, April, and August of this year, often ignited by Antifa members who object to the presence of conservative speakers on Berkeley’s campus.
There are still limitations on pepper spray use, however. The council specified that pepper spray “shall not be used as a crowd control technique to disperse a crowd or move a crowd,” the Tuesday motion stated. “Police may use pepper spray upon specific individuals within a crowd who are committing acts of violence upon police or others.”
Shapiro and the Young America’s Foundation, which is sponsoring the upcoming event, have paid Berkeley more than $15,000 in security costs to ensure the event moves forward. Previously, Berkeley cancelled appearances from Milo Yiannopoulos in February and Ann Coulter in April amid fears of violent counter protests. Violent protests ravaged the town despite the cancellations.
UC Berkeley Police plan to cordon off a group of five buildings surrounding Zellerbach Hall, where Shapiro will speak, according to a Sept. 7 announcement from the university. Police will empty the five buildings at 4 p.m. on the day of the event and create a perimeter around them, granting access only to those who have tickets for the speech.
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