At least 1,000 people waited in line on Sept. 23, 2017, with the hope of securing a ticket to see Ben Shapiro at the University of Utah.

A line of more than 1,000 people snaked around the Union building at the University of Utah on Saturday morning as the school’s Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) chapter distributed free tickets for a Ben Shapiro speaking engagement.

YAF only had 400 tickets and 50 standby slots available for the event, which will be held in the Social and Behavioral Science Building Auditorium on Sept. 27. Many people, despite waiting since the early morning hours, had to be turned away.

Dillon Clark, a member of YAF, said the group couldn’t book a larger venue for the conservative radio host and founder of The Daily Wire because of conflicting student events.

“We’re glad that everyone came out,” Clark said. “We feel bad that we couldn’t accommodate everyone, but we want to do it again next year or in the spring.”

The Facebook page for the public event, titled “Trigger Warning,” says Shapiro will “take on leftist myths of white privilege, trigger warnings, microaggressions and diversity,” a stance many students take issue with.

Approximately 30 students stayed overnight in the Center for Ethnic Student Affairs office at the Union in an attempt to secure tickets to peacefully protest the event. In response, YAF moved the ticket distribution table from its original location in the West Union Ballroom to the front of the building. YAF members said the demonstrators weren’t given tickets as they “didn’t follow the rules.” One of the students, Jasmine Robinson, said that she believes YAF discriminated against the group.

“YAF took one look at the group of ethnic minorities and shut the door,” Robinson said. “They asked if we were protesters, and we said ‘No, we just want tickets.’ They then went behind our backs and moved the table outside and began giving tickets to the majority-white people in line. They weren’t asking if they were protesters, they just started handing out the tickets.”

On the table, YAF had a sign that read, “Young Americans for Freedom at the University of Utah reserves the right to remove any individuals who act contrary to the terms agreed upon at point of sale. This includes verbal disruption, obscuring the view of others during the event, or any action deemed to be disruptive of the event.”

Organizers didn’t say, however, whether there were limitations on who could receive tickets or gain access to the event. YAF later agreed to give the group who stayed overnight seven tickets.

Ten days prior, a group of about 50 students organized by the U’s chapter of Chicanx Student Movement of Aztlán rallied outside of U President David Pershing’s office to call on the administration to cancel the event. One of the protesters said that if the U allows Shapiro to speak, the school is “normalizing hate speech.”

“The policy of the university is that a fully-registered student group has the right, just like you do, to invite speakers … The jurisdiction we have is safety,” Pershing told protesters.

U officials and police officers attended a Shapiro speaking event at the University of California Berkeley on Sept. 14 to observe how security handled protests. The Berkeley Police Department reported that there were nine arrests, but no one was injured.

“We will have every officer in our department on duty that day, and we have also been in contact with Salt Lake City and some outside resources to possibly assist with security for participants in the event,” said U Police Deputy Chief Rick McLenon. “When I say participants, that’s both sides — so unbiased.”

In the past, when the public California State University, Los Angeles, attempted to cancel Shapiro’s visit, he filed a lawsuit against the school for violating his First Amendment rights. YAF contends that if the U called off the event, the university would be disregarding the right to free speech. Clark said that the group feels the event will create an opportunity for dialogue between opposing sides.

“If we shut him down, we’re not solving anything,” Clark said. “Obviously he has a very large presence and a lot of people listen to him. I respect their First Amendment right to protest, and I hope they respect our First Amendment right to bring in a speaker.”


Emily Anderson
Emily is the former executive editor of The Daily Utah Chronicle and Wasatch Magazine. She studied journalism and the Middle East. Between 2015 and 2019, Emily covered stories from nearly every beat at the Chronicle. She was previously a contributor at SLUG Magazine, and has interned with RadioWest, KUER News and The Salt Lake Tribune.


  1. Protest outside, listen inside. This could be an example to the rest of the country on what respect for the first amendment looks like –opposing sides following through on what they need to express could serve us all a great deal.

  2. I had no idea that the U had so many antisemitic racists in the student body. 30 student protesters trying to get tickets to disrupt the event, and 50 from Chicanx Student Movement of Aztlán trying to get the president to cancel the event completely? I’m saddened to see that Utah has a problem with neo nazis trying to stop a member from the Jewish faith from speaking. I thought this sort of thing only happened in Chancellorsville?

    • Really? You think this antisemitism? If the Young Americans for Freedom brought in Ben Stiller, Mila Kunis, Seth Rogen, or any other Jewish person to speak, you think there would be protests? Hmmmmm…. maybe its not trying to prevent a jewish person from speaking, but trying to prevent a person who in general has problematic rhetoric. But hey, nice try to reframe the actions of the students, wanna try again?

      • What Problematic things have Shapiro said? He’s essentially a standard conservative, economically libertarian commentator. Just because he doesn’t necessarily subscribe to the far leftist ideals of the students, does not mean he says “problematic” rhetoric.

  3. “Leftist myths of white privilege, trigger warnings, microaggressions and diversity.”

    What a garbage statement. This event will be protested. The 1st amendment protects censorship from the government, not the ability to spew ignorant beliefs that incite hatred and violence against people that come from a different background. The University is a public institution which is responsible for protecting the rights of its student body, not those of an outside speaker. Ben Shapiro is not a student. He doesn’t have a right to a pedestal, though YAF does. YAF can certainly invite speakers, but the student body is ultimately who has the say as to whether or not the event can or should be cancelled, NOT any sort of legal observation of the 1st amendment. Again, Shapiro is not a member of the student body, and as such, his rights are not the University’s to enshrine in protections.

    • I’m not sure if you read the full article, but in comparison to the 80 or so who gathered on separate days to protest and shut down Ben Shapiro’s appearance, there were 1000+ students who came to try and secure a ticket for the event. If you want to talk about what the student body wants, take into account the whole student body, not just the offended student body. Based on the numbers from THIS article alone, I would say the majority goes to allowing him to speak.

    • The university isn’t protecting Shapiro’s rights. YAF is an approved student group, and their members are part of the student body, too. It is their rights that the administration are protecting. Furthermore, there are plenty of students, myself included, who are not part of YAF but still want the event to go forward. This is not at all a case of “student body vs. Shapiro.”

    • Cite a source of when Ben Shapiro incited hatred and violence against people from a different background. Without an example your claim is baseless. Also the University of Utah, as a federally funded institution, is actually required to respect the freedom of speech of all people. Censorship on any level of government funded organizations if strictly illegal otherwise they could just create institutions that don’t involve you or I and use that organization to silence us. Censorship with in the public realm is strictly unconstitutional except in extreme circumstances such as inciting violence, which you failed to prove.

  4. So, Jasmine Robinson lied about her intentions and then claimed to be discriminated against? Jasmine, have you considered that maybe they just saw right through your BS? Protest outside. Let students who actually want to hear Ben speak obtain the tickets. And stop claiming everything is about race or ethnicity.

  5. “Approximately 30 students stayed overnight in the Center for Ethnic Student Affairs office at the Union in an attempt to secure tickets to peacefully protest the event.”
    “One of the students, Jasmine Robinson, said that she believes YAF discriminated against the group.
    “YAF took one look at the group of ethnic minorities and shut the door,” Robinson said. “They asked if we were protesters, and we said ‘No, we just want tickets.’”
    So which was it?


Please enter your comment!
Reader comments on are the opinions of the writer, not the Daily Utah Chronicle or University of Utah Student Media. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned.

Please enter your name here