According to reports, administrators will close buildings nearby, hours before the Harvard law graduate and political commentator takes the stage for his sold-out session, in order to establish a secure perimeter around the Zellerbach Hall where he will speak. There will be “an increased and highly visible police presence”, the university said in a statement. The most recent event at Provo Park on August 27 turned violent after Antifa members, or anti-fascists, and other counter-protestors swarmed over a barricade set up by police, confronting and occasionally assaulting the event’s organizers.
There was no fighting in April, but according to The Chronicle, data shows it cost the most, with UC Berkeley forking out almost US$700,000 for expenses, including engaging the help of East Bay police departments as well as lodging, meals and equipment of officers from other campuses.
Shapiro was invited to speak by campus Republicans, who say the liberal university stifles the voice of conservative speakers. “We have a deep anxiety over the violence that their followers bring in response”.
In February, rioters hurled Molotov cocktails at officers, smashed widows and set fires on campus, causing $100,000 in damages.
Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon is scheduled to come to UC Berkeley later this month as part of a four-day event organized by his former Breitbart employee and conservative firebrand Milo Yiannopoulos.
“We must condemn the antics of Antifa and any group like them that tries to suppress the constitutional right to free speech”, Gallagher said.
Thursday’s event is being watched as a warm-up act for later this month, although campus officials say the event later this month is not yet confirmed.
“Ironically, Berkeley is fighting Free Speech Week the same way they fought against Mario Savio’s Free Speech Movement in the 60’s – by spreading fear, uncertainty, and doubt”, he said. Berkeley Free Speech Week will go on no matter what Berkeley says.
“There are faculty who don’t think the campus should be the site of this, what they call, political circus”, Burawoy said, adding that the headline-grabbing visits by controversial speakers put the university in a no-win situation. “It’s a lose-lose situation”.