After Ben Shapiro visit, UC Berkeley students debate free speech

BERKELEY, CA — People lined up before entering the heavily police-protected area at UC Berkeley Thursday afternoon.

They came to hear from invited speaker, the conservative political commentator Ben Shapiro.

Beforehand, they were met with protesters saying that the rhetoric Shapiro uses is fascist. Protests continued from the afternoon to the evening.

Police maintained a presence throughout the area to prevent any violence that was seen six months ago, when conservative Milo Yiannopoulos was scheduled to speak.

Meanwhile, for these Fil-Am Berkeley students, the speaking events of controversial conservatives comes back down to the issue of free speech.

Berkeley chancellor Carol Christ earlier this fall unveiled plans for a “free speech year,” after the violence and unrest during last spring’s invitation of controversial speakers.

She said the campus would hold panels to demonstrate how to properly exchange opposing views.

“It’s hard because we want to welcome them to speak their mind, but we also don’t want to welcome their values that they bring with them,” said student Hanna Lorica.

“Honestly I think it’s just for their publicity,” said Christian Sanchez. “They’re trying to get their name out there by causing all this unrest in a school setting.”

For these students, they also denounce anyone who takes part in violence and destruction of property — much like what happened during the scheduled Milo event.

They also say it is unfair for people to put the entire blame on Berkeley students.

“Maybe some Berkeley students took part in the riot, but at the same time it doesn’t give you the right to put yourself in our space and say we did it,” said Jeremy Pagtalunan.

According to the Berkeley police department, nine people were arrested, and there were no reported injuries due to violence and no reports of any damage to property.

Police say this was good practice for the proposed “Free Speech Week” at the last week of September featuring Yiannopoulos, Ann Coulter, and Steve Bannon.

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