California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA) was an ideological war zone Thursday afternoon, as students blockaded the doors and yanked a fire alarm in an effort to disrupt a speech by conservative writer Ben Shapiro.
Initially, CSULA president William Covino had tried to have Shapiro’s speech, titled “When Diversity Becomes a Problem,” canceled entirely in favor of a new event that would feature multiple viewpoints. But after Shapiro and Young Americans for Freedom, the event’s organizer, said it would go forward as planned, the school backed down and said it would be allowed to occur without interference.
Some liberal activists on campus wouldn’t go away so quietly, and dozens of them showed up outside the student union theater to protest and disrupt the event.
According to multiple eyewitnesses, student protesters formed a human chain to prevent people from going in the front door to the event. Eventually, people were able to enter, but most had to be escorted in small groups of two or three through a backdoor entrance. Later, once activists became aware of the backdoor entrance, several assembled to block it as well.
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Some claimed that protesters were shoving or even punching at those attempting to push their way through to the event, and many said they were called racists or white supremacists for wanting to attend the event (though insults were heaped liberally upon the protesters as well).
Professor Melina Abdullah, one of the professors most critical of Shapiro’s appearance, published several short videos on Instagram that show a large crowd of people outside the speech location blocking doors and using chants such as “Hell no, we won’t go!” and “No hate speech!”
Once the event began, Shapiro gave a brief but intense address filled with sharp condemnations of CSULA’s “cowardly” president William Covino and the protesters outside, whom he deemed “rainbow unicorn gumdrop fascists.” At one point during Shapiro’s speech, the fire alarm went off, but both Shapiro and the audience paid it no heed. It’s not immediately clear whether the fire alarm was pulled by the same protesters upset about the event.
Shapiro had a simple piece of advice for those opposed to letting him speak.
“Toughen up you spoiled brat snowflakes,” he said, before encouraging attendees to record and release footage of the demonstrations outside.
“Show the rest of the world what fascism looks like and how close it is to their doorsteps,” he said. “That’s why God made camera phones.”
Despite denouncing Covino for trying to force him into sharing the stage, Shapiro said he’d be happy to return to debate with his opponents. He said he merely opposed being forced to share the stage after having it booked, simply because of protesters who didn’t want him to speak at all.
The fireworks weren’t finished once the event was over. After Shapiro’s speech, leaving the auditorium became an ordeal for those in attendance because demonstrators were blocking the exit.
In a statement sent to The Daily Caller News Foundation, the Young America’s Foundation (which oversees Young Americans for Freedom) said it would investigate possible legal options due to CSULA’s handling of the event.
“American college campuses have spiraled so out of control that the president of a public university canceled his own students’ approved event- violating their First Amendment rights- and a mob of protestors, led by his professors, violently blocked the entrance to Ben Shapiro’s speech,” said spokeswoman Emily Jashinsky. “This mob pushed, shoved, and verbally assaulted police and conservative students who were simply attempting to attend a speech by a prominent author … President Covino, his entire administration, and administrators on campuses everywhere need to be held accountable.”
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