Conservative star Ben Shapiro spoke at the University of California at Berkeley on Thursday night amid extraordinary security measures – costing around $600,000 – prompted by fears of an outburst by violent agitators possibly descending on the campus.
All the precautions were to ensure that the 33-year-old conservative could deliver a speech on a college campus that was home to the Free Speech Movement in the 1960s. The scene was a stark change from Shapiro’s 2016 UC Berkeley talk, where the security costs were minimal.
“No violence, no nothing. And now we are spending well into six figures so that I can say many of the same things. It's utterly absurd,” Shapiro told the audience Thursday.
Metal detectors, concrete barriers and police barricades put the campus on effective lockdown.
“Conservatives here have done something amazing. They’ve achieved something incredible,” he added. “If you look outside, there’s K-bar everywhere. They’ve built basically these structures to keep Antifa from invading the premises.
"So that means Berkeley has achieved building a wall before Donald Trump did.”
Local police officers, who were allowed to use pepper spray against violent demonstrators after receiving approval this week from the Berkeley city council, arrested at least three people armed with weapons before the event, reiterating that no weapons are allowed near campus.
But the violent protesters known as Antifa, or “anti-fascists” – spooked by the security – did not show up to shut down Shapiro’s speech in their usual fashion and instead were allegedly in the audience challenging him, the Washington Times reported.
The talk by Shapiro -- author of the bestsellers "Brainwashed," "Porn Generation" and "Project President" -- was met with resistance mostly from Berkeley students who were heard chanting, “Speech is violent, we will not be silent!” and accusing Shapiro, an observant Orthodox Jew, of being a white supremacist or neo-Nazi.
“Thanks to Antifa and the supposed anti-fascist brigade for exposing what the radical left truly is,” he told the massive audience, despite a last-minute decision by the university to reportedly seize all unclaimed tickets to prevent entry to late-ticket buyers.
“All of America is watching because you guys are so stupid. It's horrifying, I am grateful, and you can all go to hell, you pathetic, lying, stupid jackasses," he added.
He celebrated the police for ensuring the event occurred, saying “These are the folks that stand between civilization and lawlessness."
He added that “the only people who are standing between those ATMs and the Antifa are the police, and all they get from the left is a bunch of crap.”
The event remained cordial despite students’ disagreements with Shapiro, who was questioned on his views regarding abortion, economics and general politics. He was not interrupted by any protesters inside the venue.
In the speech aftermath, some more-confrontational protesters came out, shouting at the police officers and scuffling with counter-protesters.
Two more people were reportedly arrested – bringing the total number arrested to five.
Among the protesters was By All Means Necessary (BAMN) ringleader Yvette Felarca, who was recently arrested for allegedly inciting a riot, Fox News reported.
A crowd led by Felarca marched down a street, shouting “Nazi scum off our streets,” according to Berkleyside, while counter-protesters also marched down. The police had separated the two factions to ensure no large clashes occurred.