University focused on safety amid calls to ‘shut down’ Shapiro

The University of Utah says it is prepared “to ensure a safe environment” on campus during Wednesday’s talk by conservative commentator Ben Shapiro.

According to a university spokesman Chris Nelson, the school “has been working closely with its campus police department (who in turn have also been working with the Salt Lake City Police Department and Utah Highway Patrol) to develop a safety and security plan appropriate to the size and scale of tonight’s event on our campus.”  

[RELATED: THIRD TIME’S THE CHARM: Police protect Shapiro from protesters]

Nelson underscored that the goal of the administration is to create a safe environment for everyone at the school, including those who show up to protest the event.

“Like other schools, we have worked to secure the immediate area around where Mr. Shapiro will be speaking,” he said in an email to Campus Reform. “Police will be on hand to secure the venue and ensure only ticketed attendees can gain access. In addition, we will have police monitoring the protests and working to intervene in the case of any violence.”

According to Shapiro’s news website The Daily Wire, the university’s Students for a Democratic Society group has been posting flyers calling for a shutdown of the slated talk.

The flyers urge the students to “Shut Down Ben Shapiro,” who they argue is a part of a “growing right-wing bigoted movement” and “works actively to spread racist and anti-LGBTQ+ vitriol throughout the country.”

[RELATED: Florida prof tries to hide identity while protesting ‘hate speech’]

Ian Decker, a member of the SDS group, penned a letter to The Salt Lake Tribune explaining why the organization intends to shut down Shapiro’s event.

“To pretend that Shapiro does not spew racist and transphobic pseudoscience with the desire to justify and encourage violence is idealistic, ahistorical, and wrong,” Decker writes. “We intend on shutting down Ben Shapiro precisely because we don’t live in a fantasy world where hate speech has no consequences.”

Asserting that “this will not be a violent protest,” he proclaims that demonstrators “intend to exercise our free speech in the boldest and most unapologetic way we can, even if Shapiro, his fans, and the University police would have it otherwise.”

The university’s spokesperson, however, reiterated that one of the core objectives of the administration is to “avoid significant disruptions to the rest of our campus” and noted that classes will not be cancelled on Wednesday evening.   

[RELATED: Berkeley prepares for Shapiro with bomb unit, boarded up ATMs]

Nelson also referenced a safety update sent out to the faculty on Tuesday announcing a prohibition of “masks, bandanas, or other face coverings” on campus during the event.

“University policy allows individuals to demonstrate freely, as long as their conduct is not violent, does not unduly disrupt the functioning of the university, interfere with the rights of other members of the university community, or damage university or private property,” the message said. “To promote safety and help ensure orderly conduct, no masks, bandanas, or other face coverings will be permitted on campus.”

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