Protest Against Ben Shapiro Speech Results in Scuffles, One Taken into Custody

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Protesters gather outside of a Ben Shapiro speech at the University of Utah on September 27, 2017.

Multiple fights broke out during protests outside of a Ben Shapiro speaking event at the University of Utah on Wednesday, resulting in one person being booked into jail on suspicion of assault and disorderly conduct.

U Police Chief Dale Brophy said he estimated about 300 people were outside the auditorium protesting, both opposing and in support of the conservative radio host and founder of The Daily Wire.

“As a university, we think this is what free speech looks like on a university campus,” said U spokesperson Chris Nelson.

Protests organized by at least three groups, including Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), Black Lives Matter (BLM) and the Democratic Socialists of America, combined in front of the Park Building. These groups took issue with Shapiro’s beliefs and the topic of his speech, titled “Trigger Warning,” which the Facebook event page said would “take on leftist myths of white privilege, trigger warnings, microaggressions and diversity.” Earlier this month, a group of students gathered in front of U President David Pershing’s office to call on the university to cancel the event.

“We stand in solidarity with the people Ben Shapiro will verbally attack tonight,” said an SDS member opening the rally.

Protesters gather leading up to a Ben Shapiro speech at the University of Utah on September 27, 2017.

As those protesting Shapiro spoke to the crowd, counter-protesters gathered behind them chanting, “All lives matter!” and “Free speech matters!” Much of the debate between demonstrators and Shapiro’s supporters centered around the free speech, and whether what protesters classified as hate speech is protected by the First Amendment.

“There is nothing more hypocritical than saying ‘Don’t shut down the speech of Ben Shapiro, but we’re going to shut down your speech because we’re hypocrites,’” said Lex Scott of BLM. “This is Trump’s America.”

Natalie Pinkney, a member of BLM and a recent U graduate, said that although Shapiro and other conservatives advocate for free speech, they often deny it to people of color. She referred to recent debates over NFL players kneeling during the national anthem and right-wing reactions to former President Barack Obama’s election.

“We’re here because black lives have never mattered,” Pinkney said. “Where’s our liberty? When have we had the ability to have freedom of speech?”

Shapiro is known for his motto, “facts don’t care about your feelings.” Pinkney said, however, that she believes he doesn’t have his facts straight when it comes to the experiences of people of color.

“I think Ben Shapiro really tells this story about what it means to be a person of color and talks about evidence, but ignores all the evidence that’s out there. I think it’s important to show up and say there is evidence, there is another part of the story.”

After listening to several speakers, approximately 200 protesters marched toward the Social and Behavioral Science Building Auditorium, where the speech was being held, as counter-protesters walked in front of the group. Police stood at the wings while security donning orange vests organized by SDS flanked the sides of marchers.

Tim Connolly, a Shapiro supporter and U student, said one protester shoved him and tore his sign, which said “Safe spaces are for children.”

“I support the idea that everyone should be allowed to speak no matter how offensive the opinion is as long as it isn’t a call to violence,” Connolly said. “Some of his opinions I agree with, some of them I don’t.”

As protesters arrived at the auditorium, police had set up barriers and stationed security around the building. About 100 Shapiro supporters were waiting, and began challenging demonstrators’ chants.

They yelled back and forth, saying “All lives matter!” and “Black lives matter!” as the latter group took a knee paying homage to protesting NFL players.

Tension rose when one white counter-protester, who said he was a student at the U, called Asian protester and U student Sara Kang an “egg roll.”

“That’s hate speech,” Kang said, as she broke down into tears.

University of Utah student Sara Kang, who was protesting Ben Shapiro speaking at the school on Sept. 27, 2017, reacts to being called an “egg roll.”

Many Shapiro supporters and protesters separated into smaller groups — some found common ground in conversation, while others engaged in contentious arguments.

Some of the debates escalated into physical confrontations, which led to police detaining three individuals and taking one into custody. Another person who wasn’t involved in the scuffles was cited with disorderly conduct.

Officers from multiple departments helped with security at the event, including the U’s Police Department, Cottonwood Heights Police Department and West Jordan Police Department, along with assistance from the Utah Highway Patrol and federal law enforcement.

“Our stated goal tonight was to provide a safe campus for everyone here,” said Nelson. “We scaled it to the degree we thought was appropriate.”

@emilyreanderson

e.anderson@dailyutahchronicle.com

 

Read our coverage of Shapiro’s speech here.

Emily Anderson
Emily is the news editor at the Daily Utah Chronicle. She studies journalism and the Middle East. Since 2015, Emily has covered stories from nearly every beat at the Chronicle. She is also a contributor at SLUG Magazine, and has interned with RadioWest, KUER News and The Salt Lake Tribune.

21 COMMENTS

  1. Whoa there Emily. Did you intentionally leave off the context of the Sara Kang incident? She was directly provoking that student for a decently long time before he made that comment. Don’t be painting this incident as if she were innocently attacked by some racist for no reason. She was guilty of much more in the way of hate speech and yet she gets off because she’s a member of a minority group? This is worse than soccer players.

  2. I can’t believe a person would cry because they were called a derogatory name. I have been called much worse things than “egg roll” when I was in the Army. Maybe some of these kids need to toughen up a little bit. This is a country founded by people who were sick of government telling them what they could and could not do. The liberties we are provided come at a cost. We have to be willing to hear things we don’t like, see things we don’t like, and/or deal with things we don’t like. Luckily, we have the liberties needed to deal with those things. You don’t like it when people call you a ? Leave the area. You don’t like seeing gay people walk down the street holding hands? Leave the area. You don’t like your neighbors paint job on their house? Move. You are not victims unless you allow yourself to be a victim.

  3. Am I the only one that feels people are way too emotionally reactive? On both sides. I disagree with a lot of things Shapiro says (though not all) and I disagree with the way he presents a lot of what he says. However, saying someone is wrong in their ideas or beliefs is not hate speech. Example… if I say Jesus is a myth that is not an attack on Christians as people… it a criticism of their ideas and beliefs. That is not an attack on them as people. We have to be allowed to criticize ideas regardless if we are right or wrong to do so. If we are right in our criticism of an idea then will help get people to think about it and possibly change their mind. If we are wrong in our criticisms and the idea withstands such, then it will strengthen the good idea by making us reevaluate the strength of our position. We will understand our position better. Either way that is a good thing.
    If you think Shapiro is wrong and a bad person for his ideas then great. If you agree with his ideas great! Protest away. Write a blog about why he is wrong or right. Spread your criticisms. Add to the conversation. But fighting? Really? Are we children on a playground? We have two choices, conversation or violence. Emotional responses are normal… but we cannot let our emotions lead us. Passion rules reason. What happens to a society that bases their positions only on feelings? “I’m right because I feel like I am!” How dangerous is that?
    My last point… Conversation, criticism, debate, protests, and ridicule are all healthy. But shutting down dialogue and preventing the sharing of ideas is dangerous. The fact that people were trying to cancel his speech is completely wrong. If he shows up and tries to incite violence by calling for it. then its a crime and you can arrest him, but until he actually says things to specifically cause people to be violent and hurt others… well you’re just going to have to let him speak. Protecting the freedom of speech is easy when you agree. It is very difficult to protect the right of someone to say stuff you disagree with on a visceral level.
    I welcome discussion and criticism. I want to believe as many true things and disbelieve as many false things as I can.

  4. James obviously has no context on BLM. It started when 17-year-old Trevon Martin was shot and killed and later put on trial for his own murder. BLM is standing against police brutality and anti-blackness.
    There are way more black people being shot and killed by police than the rare incident of police being killed by a black person.
    So, if you are wondering if BLM is a terrorist group (they clearly aren’t, which you would see if you took the time to research) or why they are repressed at the University, you may also want to ask yourself why YAF is represented at the University.

    But you are on an “anti” Ben Shapiro article, I did not expect less.

  5. The real world is going to eat these ignorant self-involved babies alive. I guarantee most of them are there with out any understanding of the constitution or American history. Their parents paid for an education that didn’t challenge or teach them. They fed them socialist bs. Everyone needs to grow up.

  6. BLM and the other associated groups are anti-white, supremacist hate groups. Disgusting to see how some misguided losers support them. There is no oppression of minorities in the US. In contrast, there’s oppression of white people; it’s called affirmative action. The reason many people of color underperform is their lower IQ. Cconstantly attacking whites is nothing but racism because they cannot admit it’s their own genes that set them up for failure and thus blame white people.

  7. What was done to Sara Kang is inexcusable. Growing up as a Italian-American I was once called “Pizza”, it was the single most traumatic and horrible thing that has ever happened to me. I have been in therapy over the incedent ever since, and feel there must be some kind of law in place to stop these nazis from calling people the names of food associated with their ethnicity.

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