Grace, a 17-year-old high school student, was rendered unconscious when she got in a fight with an older man during a protest opposing Ben Shapiro speaking at the University of Utah on September 27, 2017.

When 17-year-old Grace graduates from high school, she plans to study political science and economics. When she went to the University of Utah on Sept. 27 to protest Ben Shapiro speaking on campus, she didn’t plan on getting in a fight.

Grace describes herself as politically active. She became interested in social justice after Michael Brown was shot by police in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014. The death of the unarmed, black 18-year-old inspired Grace to get involved in activism.

“We are entitled to our anger,” Grace said. “There’s stuff happening that justifies anger and shouting and all of that stuff.”

Her mother was worried about Grace attending the protest at the U. She had read about the death of Heather Heyer at a protest against white supremacy in Charlottesville, Virginia, and was concerned that something similar could happen to her daughter. Grace reassured her mother that at the numerous protests she had participated in, she had never seen violence.

When she attended the rally at the U, however, Grace found herself at the center of an altercation.

Grace said she was standing on a set of stairs near the Social and Behavioral Science Building, where Shapiro was speaking, when she heard a man telling a woman that black people blame all of their problems on white people and that black people are the most violent group in the U.S.

She decided to step in, asking, “Why do you keep talking about black people?”

As she grew tired of his arguments, Grace said she turned away. Then he called her a “dumb, broke nigger.”

In response, Grace slapped the man.

“It was kind of like a knee-jerk reaction to hit him,” Grace said. “I wasn’t purposefully thinking, ‘You’ve got to hit this person.’ But I didn’t expect him to roundhouse me twice.”

The man hit Grace once on the side of her head, then on the top of her head as she collapsed.

Grace said she was rendered momentarily unconscious and her memory of the event was foggy for the rest of the night. A member of the U’s faculty drove her home, and police sent an EMT to her house to check for a concussion — which they cleared her of.

When speaking with a police officer about the altercation, Grace said the officer told her she wouldn’t face any charges.

“He said even if I had been 18, and I had hit him first and he claimed self-defense, he knocked me out afterwards,” Grace said. “So, the person who gets hurt the most is the victim.”

The Daily Utah Chronicle could not contact the other individual involved in the fight, but Grace estimated he was above 30.

Grace began being harassed online after videos surfaced of the incident. Some individuals left comments on the video saying that because she hit the man first, she deserved his response.

“She experienced a little bit of equality in his reaction to her punching him in the face,” wrote Twitter user @Webslinger64.

Others, however, made much more personal attacks on her social media pages. To avoid further online torment from the latter group, Grace asked not to have her last name included in this article.

In its own online posts, the U characterized the protest as peaceful.

“Tonight was a good example of how free speech should look on a university campus,” the school wrote on Twitter. “Passionate people, nonviolently expressing their opinions.”

Grace took issue with that statement. She said she wishes the U would have acknowledged that not everyone was safe that night.

Despite the harassment and what she felt was disregard from the U, Grace said she does not regret her actions.

“If I had to get punched two more times to hit him again, I would punch him again,” she said.

Popular conservative commentator Steven Crowder made a video of protesters at the U in which he claimed to uncover ANTIFA, a political movement opposing fascism, as an indiscriminately violent group. Crowder characterized Grace as someone who identifies as part of the movement.

“I was like, ‘Since when am I in this group? I’m so confused,’” Grace said. “But I always go to the rallies, the protests, the marches and I see them and I support them — I always will.”

Part of the reason Crowder mistook her as involved with ANTIFA, Grace believes, is because conservatives don’t listen.

“They always go on and on about how they want people to come up to them, like let’s start an open discussion,” Grace said. “But they don’t really want to talk. They just want to shout at you what they think they know, and then when you try to say something, they say, ‘Look at her being angry, not wanting to listen to someone just because they oppose their beliefs.’”

Grace feels that the protest opposing Ben Shapiro, juxtaposed with the counter-protest, reflects a greater rift in American society. She plans to continue fighting against words and opinions that she views as exclusionary.

“It all comes down to the fact that hate speech is not free speech. I’m not going to let anyone make them synonymous — they’re not the same thing and will never be the same thing. People aren’t entitled to tell lies or bigotry on campus or anywhere.”

@emilyreanderson

e.anderson@dailyutahchronicle.com

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. If you actually went to Shapiro’s speech, you would know that Ben Shapiro actually opens up questions to the audience. He calls out students like this girl to ask questions and challenge him. I find it particularly egregious to attribute bigotry to Shapiro himself by associating it to another protestor when Shapiro himself has condoned violence from Antifa and the alt-Right.

    • However, the individuals selling the tickets did not sell to protesters. There is no open discussion because people who oppose him weren’t allowed entry.

  2. Steve Crowder grouped her with antifa because antifa is notorious for initiation violence for people they disagree with, i.e. the hyperbolic “punch nazis” quote. Sure, the other man was being pretty slanderous, but he was not initiating any force. Also, I find hypocrisy in Grace’s contention with the universities statement “everyone was safe that night.” You’re right, they weren’t safe, but that was due to people like her, those who initiate violence against others they disagree with.

  3. If this girl knew the slightest thing about Ben Shapiro, she should have attended the speech instead of protesting outside. Why?

    Ben Shapiro is a staunch constitutional conservative, whose speeches and daily commentaries reveal that he is not only critical of the left and Democrats, but also the far right, Republicans, and he gives the most honest and nonpartisan criticism of President Trump of any pundit out there in today’s political climate. He is also a practicing Orthodox Jew; combine that with his speeches and commentaries, and there’s literally no logical way he’s an alt-right spokesman, a white nationalist, or a racist. He’s not even that radical of a speaker; his ideologies are all centered around the notion of individuality, autonomy, and personal responsibility, the opposite of what the establishment left preaches.

    That being said, at the end of every speech, Shapiro holds a Q&A, in which he automatically suggests that anyone who disagrees – right, left, whatever – gets to go to the front of the line and contend him first. Look up any one of his college talks on YouTube. If this girl truly had a grievance with the man himself, or conservative ideology as a whole, then she should have taken the time and energy to enter the event and speak directly to him. The discussions between Shapiro and “those who disagree” are almost always very polite, civil, and best of all, substantive. Politeness, civility, substance – lost virtues in today’s political dialogue, and Ben Shapiro consistently and proudly delivers on those aspects.

    That being said, although I feel for this girl because she got knocked out by some nutcase, that’s as far as my sympathy for her goes. Her attending the protest and actively participating in it, which was held in spite of ideologies and values that Ben Shapiro doesn’t tote, just further contributes to the problem at hand. And Daily Utah Chronicle is adding to that problem, by giving this girl a platform and allowing her to spread her misinformation to a wider audience.

    It is at best lazy and at worst downright manipulative to react in these ways to Ben Shapiro. It’s especially insulting because a casual Google search, or a video or two, would reveal that Shapiro despises white supremacy, racism, hatred, and bigotry of all sorts. One thing he constantly says is, and I paraphrase: “If you can point out an individual instance of true racism, I’ll stand by you and fight it with you; but simply shouting ‘racism’ doesn’t help and only emboldens those you disagree with.” Strong, reasoned words.

    It is incredibly ironic and frankly insulting when this girl says at the end: “People aren’t entitled to tell lies or bigotry on campus or anywhere,” when that’s clearly what she was involved with. Because, again, I repeat: the “racism,” “white supremacy,” and “bigotry” that Antifa and others were protesting that night IS NOT CONSISTENT WITH WHAT BEN SHAPIRO PREACHES. Either these people knowingly and deliberately smeared Shapiro as these things to get a reaction, or they heard that a “conservative” speaker was coming to campus and their automatic reaction was to jump on the “Nazi bigot” bandwagon. The frank hypocrisy is incredibly thick, especially with leftist mouthpieces in the public sphere today.

    Maybe instead of blaming and attacking anyone else, leftists should instead look inside themselves, at their logic, their lines of thinking, their ideologies, and try and see where the root of the REAL problems is. Because, I guarantee, 99% of the time, it’s themselves.

  4. Hands up don’t shoot was a lie! Michael Brown attcked a police officer. Even Oboma’s justice department proved this. If any injustice was done it was in false accusations about the police officer. Therefore, because Ms Grace promotes one lie, which she may think is true. I question her story. I have listened to many of Ben’s talks and he is not what she thinks he is. I would enocourage Grace to Listen to Ben. She may see that Ben’s words are the path to lift up Americans of all types.

    • Wait so your standardard to justify police violence is if the officer feels threatened or thinks he/she could get hurt?

      Let’s assume what you’re saying is correct. Anyone who runs at, pushes, hits, or in any similar way threatens a police officer deserves to get shot and therefore deserves to die? Hmmm.

      Why do we even train police in hand to hand combat and self defense? Why do we pay for them to have tasers, batons, and pepper spray, then? If you’re running at or hitting a cop, it’s fair for them to pepper spray you, sure. To potentially forever change or take your life is just wrong.

      Check out these British officers: https://youtu.be/J9TFvh6Xps4

      Not a single shot fired and he’s literally swinging a large knife at them.

      This is footage of Patrick Harmon getting shot in August by SLCPD: https://youtu.be/EnnEiWDrnxo

      I couldn’t see a knife or hear any threats from Harmon, which is what they claimed. But even if he did, watch the British officers at work again and ask yourself why they shot him.

      I known Ben Shapiro says there’s not a problem save for a small handful of bad incidents. But there actually is a problem.

      Any time a black person. Gets shot, so many (mostly white) people come out and spit on their bodies. “He was a criminal,” “he was being violent,” “he deserved it.” They even get dragged in the press.

      Then, in nearly every case, the offending officers are acquitted and go back out to the streets to patrol.

      Shapiro cites one study that got published by the NYT a while back indicating that black people are no more likely than white people to get shot by police. However, this same study also indicates that black people are far more likely to get beaten up by the police (punched, batoned, tased, etc.). That alone is enough to make people angry.

      Other studies with arguably more reliable data suggest that black men are 9x more likely than their white counterparts to get shot by police. That’s something to get angry about.

      I’d love to talk more about this with you if you’d like.

      But the point is that when people are suffering, when they’re sad and tired and angry, when they’re mourning their murdered sons and daughters, or trying to help those who have survived police violence and vigilante violence heal, the worst thing to do is tell them they’re delusionally imagining the problem and just need to quit feeling sorry for themselves and need to just work harder and all their problems will be fixed.

      I mean, isn’t that among the most salient reasons why Hillary lost the election? She wrote off and ignored masses of people, labelling them “deplorables” and just moved on?

      Aren’t y’all conservatives supposed to be christians? How about taking some time to really see where people are coming from? Obviously more people on both sides need to do this, but if you want anything to improve, telling people that they’re just imagining racism and have dubious intentions and are liars is not the right place to start.

      And any word for the man who knocked this 17 year-old woman unconscious? Or is Grace the only one at fault here?

      I apologize for rambling at such length; thanks for taking the time to read!

  5. I think that we should be standing by Grace. We should offer our support. I think she is brave. I think she is amazing. I wish that there were more young people like her out there.

    Grace should not have been punched in the face. She shouldn’t have slurs hurled at her on a university campus. When a 17 year old girl gets punched in the face because she slapped someone, we should get angry. We should not try to justify the actions of person who punched her. She is the victim. She deserves better.

    • She’s a victim, yes. She’s also a perpetrator. We shouldn’t justify her choice to slap the man either. They’re both in the wrong, but this article glorifies her for something she purposely engaged in.

  6. THIS CHRONICLE IS A JOKE! I WAS STANDING RIGHT THERE! I HAVE READ THIS CHRONICLE AND IT IS THE MOST BIASED TRASH AROUND! I have NO IDEA how she was told she wasn’t going to be charged! They both need to be charged! I don’t blame her for punching him, but it is ILLEGAL. They should both get in trouble.

    Why are you looking to justify violence Daily Utah Chronicle? Right below this it says, “Reader comments on dailyutahchronicle.com are the opinions of the writer, not the Daily Utah Chronicle or University of Utah Student Media.” Then why are you promoting this stuff? It’s garbage and you’re worse than CNN. COMPLETE TRASH!

    • For a conservative that wants a small government, you sure seem to want the big state to get its big sticky fingers all up in this incident. You really think the tensions here would be solved by making these two individuals, one of whom is a minor, both pay a bunch of fines and possibly spend time in jail for a heated argument that escalated?

      Just remember, don’t conflate legality with morality. I’m sure we can agree: many laws, throughout this country’s history, have simply been wrong–deeply immoral. The justice system is a tool to uphold power, not to uphold justice, though sometimes there is some overlap.

      State involvement complicates and exacerbates issues that could be resolved by time, reflection, and honest dialogue.

      Also, how do you define violence? And how is this article promoting it?

  7. Is Grace seriously accusing conservatives of being the ones to shout her and others down? Why doesn’t The Daily Chronicle publish an article displaying the ridiculous and immature acts of Antifa? At least recognize your bias if you’re going to possess one as a news source.

  8. Everyone saying this article is biased must not be able to read. The title says that Grace is telling “her side of the story.” What’s biased about letting a young woman of color, whose voice would usually be marginalized, tell her perspective of the story? The Chronicle said they tried to reach out to the other dude involved but that they couldn’t contact him. Not really much they could do to get both perspectives.

    You all are so extra.

  9. “Hate speech is not free speech”
    “I had to hit him”
    “I would hit him again”

    Unbelievable how ignorant and hypocritical this girl is. Guess what: facts don’t care about your feelings. And neither does the law. If she keeps up this mindset, she’ll be in jail in two years, where she belongs.

    • Do you think he would hit her again? If he could? Why are very few people on the right going after this larger, older man who hit her twice? The most I’ve seen is a sort of “eh, yeah I guess what he did was bad but…”

      And you act as though she’s some depraved and sadistic criminal for saying she’d hit him again. If somebody older and bigger than you, particularly when you’re a young and petit black woman and this opponent is a man and is white, says something so heinous and vile, behaves with such arrogance and ignorance, making disparaging comments that personally attack you, I can almost guarantee that unless you’re literally Jesus, you would hit him too.

      Power dynamics must be considered. If these two were on completely equal footing, same size, same social station, same identity, and one called the other an idiot and got hit for it, then okay sure, berate and condemn them. But to say this girl belongs in jail is absurd, and reverberates throughout the racist power structures of mass incarceration. Remember, nothing exists in a vacuum.

      And what if she were your girlfriend, sister, etc. The air thick with tension, chanting, yelling, arguing and pushing between different political factions all around you. So many irritated, anxious and furious bodies all about. Your girlfriend, sister, etc. is the one who gets knocked unconscious after hitting someone for making truly vile comments. Don’t tell me you’d tell her to turn the other cheek once she came to, and that you wouldn’t smack that dude yourself.

      And man if she belongs in jail, so does the man who hit her, along with the other guy, some alt-Right type, who attacked a woman that same night. And geez, following your logic, half the kids in my high school gym class should be in jail. And even the frat boys who have gotten in scuffles at parties. Jail ’em all, huh?

  10. Shouldn’t have slapped him first! You need to have self control, if you hit someone, you are going to get hit back, there is no sympathy, no nothing. Don’t be getting mad to end up hitting someone, I don’t feel bad for her either, she got what was coming to her!

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