The University of California at Berkeley plans to turn parts of its campus into a fortress as it authorizes police officers to use pepper spray for the first time in two decades, all in preparation for a speech by conservative commentator Ben Shapiro Thursday night.
The notoriously liberal school is forced to take extra measures to ensure security as threats from radical groups such as Antifa mount, promising more political violence. “We have seen extremists on the left and right in our city,” Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin told members of the press. “We aren’t distinguishing between ideology, we are concerned about the violence on both sides.”
The decision by the university comes after devastating protests in February, which saw armed mobs storm the campus, hurling stones and Molotov cocktails, attacking bystanders, and smashing doors and windows. This violence forced the administration to cancel a speech by conservative media personality Milo Yiannapoulis, and resulted in threats from the White House to pull federal funding from the school.
Thursday’s speech, sponsored by the school’s College Republicans, spearheads a list of other conservative commentators appearances at the school, including Steve Bannon and Anne Coulter, as well as a return of Milo Yiannapoulis. To curb the potential for violence like that which was seen earlier in the year, UC Berkely Provost Paul Alivisatos sent out a campus wide memo stating that
To curb the potential for violence like that which was seen earlier in the year, UC Berkely Provost Paul Alivisatos sent out a campus wide memo stating that noone wearing masks or carrying weapons of any sort will be allowed on campus, and police chief Andrew Greenwood warned of ” “very strong, rapid arrests” against any possible troublemakers.
“Things have changed,” UC Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof told the media. “We’re a quantum leap away from the sort of arrangements we needed to make in the past for events that have the potential to attract strong political support or opposition.”