Berkeley prepares for Ben Shapiro talk at Cal, possible protests

Ben Shapiro’s talk at Zellerbach Hall on Thursday at 7 p.m. has prompted concerns about protests on campus and nearby. Photo: Gage Skidmore/Creative Commons

The city and university have taken steps to prepare for the talk scheduled on the UC Berkeley campus Thursday evening by conservative political commentator Ben Shapiro.

Protests are anticipated around Shapiro’s appearance, and there is concern that they might turn violent, as they did when far-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos was due to speak on campus Feb. 1. The vandalism and violence that erupted that evening forced the cancellation of the talk.

Shapiro is due to talk from 7-9 p.m. at Zellerbach Hall and security measures have been put in place, including stringent access requirements for the press. A list of prohibited items has also been published by UCPD.

The community can expect street closures, traffic delays and disruptions to public transit in the campus area Thursday. The city has closed Bancroft Way between Bowditch and Ellsworth streets to vehicle traffic. A Nixle alert put out by Berkeley Police around 9 a.m. Thursday, stated: “In anticipation of the event, those parked inside the affected area will be allowed to drive out but will not be allowed to drive back in until after 3 a.m. on Sept. 15. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause and only take these actions in the interest of public safety.”


AC Transit buses are impacted by the preparations. Lines 6, 36, 51B, 52, 79, 851, and F will be detoured away from Bancroft Way and Durant Avenue. Service will be disrupted from 4 a.m. Thursday until 8 a.m. Friday. See more details in an AC Transit alert issued Wednesday.

Crews putting up barriers on the UC Berkeley campus Thursday. UCPD are also redirected pedestrians away from Zellerbach Hall and Lower Sproul Plaza. Photo: Citizen reporter

There have been several other steps taken ahead of the Shapiro event, some of which have caused “town-gown” disagreement.

Ahead of the talk, Mayor Jesse Arreguín and the city criticized UC Berkeley for creating security perimeters they say are likely to funnel potential protesters onto city streets, possibly causing problems for local merchants and city police.

At a special meeting Tuesday, the Berkeley City Council voted to let police use pepper spray on protesters who are violent. Officials reaffirmed their commitment against the use of pepper spray for “crowd control,” or on anyone who is passively resisting police.

And on Wednesday, the city issued regulations around items that are temporarily prohibited from three city parks, and other areas, on Thursday. They include sticks, pipes, poles and “anything else that can be used for a ‘riot’.”

A projection by Refuse Fascism and Revolution Books, referencing Shapiro, was spotted on campus Wednesday night. Sunsara Taylor, of Revolution Newspaper, posted the image.

Read about the build-up to the Ben Shapiro talk and more on the many political clashes that have taken place in Berkeley since February.