Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro’s appearance at the University of Minnesota went off without incident Monday night, thanks to 100 cops who surrounded the lecture hall with concrete barriers.
Dozens of protesters gathered outside the lecture hall in an attempt to prevent people from attending, but they were held back by police, City Pages reported Tuesday. The largest obstacle to attendance, however, was the venue itself. U of M students requested a larger event venue for Shapiro’s speech, but the administration relegated him to the smaller 400-person venue after students protested and claimed he was a white nationalist. As a result, there wasn’t enough room for many of the students who wished to attend.
“We’re besieged because of our views,” Abdi Mohamed told, who was turned away from the venue for lack of space, told City Pages. “We have to have this militaristic guard just to share a couple opinions.”
Students requested the 1,500-person Ted Mann Concert Hall, but the administration claimed there was a scheduling conflict, despite there being no such conflict when the students submitted their request. Instead, Shapiro spoke at the St. Paul Student Center, a venue miles off the main campus.
Heavily armed police and concrete barriers have been a staple at Shapiro’s appearances at universities across the country to prevent what he calls the “heckler’s veto.” Angry protesters at the University of California, Berkeley tried to smother his appearance in September 2017, but the university spent $600,000 on security alone to ensure the event went smoothly.
Nevertheless, Berkeley administrators used a similar strategy of claiming 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 had a capacity of nearly 2,000.
The protest uproar at past Shapiro events lead Twin Cities police to take event security more seriously, although the U of M student body doesn’t share Berkeley’s legacy of protest. Officers from four departments were present at the event.
“We weren’t expecting anything,” U of M Police Chief Matt Clark told the Pioneer Press. “But we wanted to ensure everyone was safe.”
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