The University of California, Berkeley ended up spending roughly $600,000 to ensure that protests didn’t turn into riots Thursday night when conservative commentator Ben Shapiro spoke on campus.
Shapiro was able to speak without incident or interruption after university police emptied and cordoned off the five buildings surrounding Zellerbach Hall, where the speech took place. Police dressed in riot gear behind a line of concrete barriers made nine arrests throughout the night. UC Berkeley considered the event “successful,” spokesman Dan Mogulof told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) September 15, 2017
The university paid for equipment rentals as well as hourly fees, overtime pay, and travel and room and board for officers who came to Berkeley from other cities. While the expenses are still being tallied, Mogulof said the university estimates it will amount to $600,000.
In the weeks before the event, Shapiro and event sponsor Young America’s Foundation (YAF) asserted that Berkeley administrators were doing everything they could to prevent Shapiro’s appearance. The school has been ravaged by violent reactionary protests against right-wing speakers like Milo Yiannopoulos and Ann Coulter throughout 2017. (RELATED: Berkeley Police Get New Tool To Combat Violent Protests For Shapiro Speech)
The administration initially told Shapiro and YAF there were no available venues for the event, despite Berkeley College Republicans telling the administration about their intent to host Shapiro months in advance. Following protests, the university provided Zellerbach Hall for the event, which has a capacity of nearly 2,000.
The university then levied a $15,000 security charge against Shapiro and YAF, which YAF was able to pay. UC Berkeley also declared that only half the seats in Zellerbach Hall would be available for attendees, claiming that a “security assessment” prohibited the use of the auditorium’s balcony. Shapiro claimed in his speech that the university feared protesters in the balcony throwing chairs down onto those below.
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