Berkeley Limits Crowd Size for Conservative Speaker to Half the Auditorium Citing 'Security Assessment'

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Posted: Sep 05, 2017 2:20 PM
Berkeley Limits Crowd Size for Conservative Speaker to Half the Auditorium Citing 'Security Assessment'

Update: Berkeley replied in an e-mail to Townhall that given “recent, violent incidents in the City of Berkeley and Charlottesville, the University of California Police Department (UCPD) recently completed a revised security assessment for the September 14th event featuring Ben Shapiro.”

They said this is “consistent with demands presented by the BCR to the UCPD in a recent written communication, as well as University’s event policy that applies to all student organizations and clearly states:

“If UCPD determines that, because of new information it has received or changing circumstances, its security assessment must be modified, it will schedule additional meetings or communications with the LEAD Center, sponsors, and other appropriate stakeholders to discuss its revised recommendations.”

"As a result of UCPD’s revised assessment and guidance provided by the department’s command staff, the hosting student organization has been informed about the following, additional security measures that will be implemented in order to support our commitment to help facilitate a safe and successful event": 

Some form of photo identification will be required for entrance to the event

There will be no sales of large blocks of tickets to single individuals or organizations. 

There will be no “Will Call” tickets available on the day of the event to ensure that the person who bought the ticket is the person attending the event, and that we have an accurate list of people inside the event, in case of emergency.

For safety reasons, the balcony that extends out, high above the main floor in Zellerbach Hall will be closed for the Shapiro event. We have concerns that anything thrown from the balcony has potential to seriously harm patrons below and confrontations on the balcony could result in significant injury should someone stumble, trip, or get pushed over the balcony railing. With the balcony closed for these security reasons, the maximum audience size is 1,042, more than double the number originally requested by the Berkeley College Republicans.

Berkeley also said that since “audience size has a substantial impact on basic security fees assessed for all students groups, the BCR’s security fee for this event will be reduced from $15,738 to $9,162.”

Original Post

The University of California Berkeley recently notified the Young America’s Foundation (YAF) of yet another restriction on Ben Shapiro’s September 14th lecture. YAF was informed that half the auditorium slated for the speech must be left empty due to a “new security assessment.”

According to YAF, the university’s administrators notified them that half of Zellerbach Hall must be left empty during the lecture “despite the university charging more than $15,000 to secure a fully-filled Zellerbach Hall.”

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has called such fees unconstitutional.

“This move to limit the number of students able to hear, for once, conservative ideas comes as more than 2,500 individuals have confirmed their desire to hear Shapiro speak at Berkeley via wait list,” YAF emphasized.

YAF detailed the history of their struggle with Berkeley:

Berkeley initially offered Zellerbach Hall as part of a belated, face-saving attempt to salvage its public image and cling to the appearance of supporting free speech in the face of a civil rights lawsuit demonstrating Berkeley’s noted failures to honor the law.

This came after the school claimed their “extensive efforts” turned up zero available venues, and before they assessed a $15,738 “security fee” to secure a fully-filled Zellerbach Hall. This charge was not accompanied by any explanation of what the $15K+ fee provides or a guarantee that such a fee would protect students from being beaten like animals if campus police officers aren’t allowed to do their jobs.

Now instead of releasing tickets for a capacity crowd of 1,978 they’re only allowing 1,042 seats to be used, citing a “security assessment” but not explaining why this assessment wasn’t done earlier, or why other events at Berkeley hosting prominent speakers are not subject to a security assessment leading to a reduction in capacity.

“The lengths UC Berkeley is willing to go to in order to limit conservatives’ exercise of First Amendment freedoms are staggering,” YAF Spokesman Spencer Brown said. “Instead of castigating conservatives, blocking speakers, and limiting attendance, Berkeley’s leadership should be focused on maintaining the rule of law on their campus and holding Antifa and other thugs accountable for their illegal acts.”

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Ben Shapiro also tweeted about Berkeley’s requirements for his speech, complaining that the university was not releasing tickets until two days before the event.

Berkeley has been subject to questions about their openness to free speech after planned speeches by Ann Coulter and Milo Yiannopoulos prompted riots and cancellations.

Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin is calling for the university’s planned “Free Speech Week” event with Yiannopoulos, Coulter, and former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon to be cancelled due to concerns over left-wing Antifa riots.