This is why we can’t have alt-right things. The city of Berkeley is going into a state of lockdown today in anticipation of tonight’s 7 p.m. Ben Shapiro lecture at Zellerbach Hall. CBS 5 reports that “Berkeley will seal off large parts of its campus like a fortress with a closed perimeter and a ‘very large’ visible police presence Thursday,” as the college town girds itself for the kind of Patriot Prayer punching, white supremacist counterpunching, black bloc mayhem, and general leftie vs. alt-rightie violence in which both sides seem to revel, but causes so many headaches for the official birthplace of the Free Speech Movement.
“We'll have far more police officers here, we're confronting anyone wearing a mask," UC Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof told ABC 7.
This event is not part of the “Free Speech Week” happening later this month that has supposedly booked Ann Coulter and Steve Bannon and has at least confirmed Milo Yiannopoulos. (Some faculty are calling for a boycott of classes during that week.) But tonight is the unofficial dry run for Berkeley Police, black bloc antifa types, and wannabe #MAGA martyrs for their week of provocation during which teeth will be gnashed, chaos will ensue, and not one person’s mind will be changed about any political topic.
The Berkeley PD have wisely telegraphed their plans to the Chronicle, with a strategy to to seal off the Sproul Plaza perimeter and use their freshly authorized pepper spray capabilities if need be. (I almost can’t wait for the pepper-spray cop memes and ‘Is it OK to pepper spray a Nazi?’ internet discourse tomorrow.) Berkeley Police Chief Andrew Greenwood vowed "very strong, rapid arrests" should any shenanigans ensue, which they inevitably will.
Should you be showing up for these shenanigans, realize there is a lengthy list of banned items. “Billy clubs, torches and flags or signs mounted on poles not attached to a building are banned throughout the area of the city bordered west to east by Martin Luther King Jr. Way and Piedmont Avenue and bordered south to north by Dwight Way and Cedar Street,” Ashley Wong notes in the Daily Californian. “Additionally, in Ohlone Park, Willard Park and Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park, metal pipes, smoke canisters and baseball bats are also banned.”
“In each of the three parks, masks or bandanas that hide the face will be prohibited aside from coverings worn for religious beliefs,” Wong also reports. Those guidelines seem to present... a pretty obvious loophole?
The 1,000-seat Zellerbach Hall is a gaudy get for the youngster Republicans, and they are reportedly kicking in for security costs. Where do they get this money? The Daily Cal has a terrific analysis of how much money the Young America’s Foundation spends on these campus lecture events, noting that they’ve raised and spent a surprising $54.3 million in the last 12 years, with big-bucks donations from the not-exactly-undergraduate types like Donald Rumsfeld, Jeff Sessions, and Mike Pence. (The Koch Brothers are also big donors, and Pat Sajak is a smaller donor). That $54.3 million is, of course, spread out over more than a decade. But the most recent year’s expenditures on right-wing campus events totaled north of $8 million, painting a very different picture than when Ann Coulter supposedly backed out of an April lecture because YAF wouldn’t pay her.
NBC Bay Area scored an interview with Shapiro, who seems delighted that his miniscule profile has been elevated by the coming brouhaha. “I’m just coming to campus to give a speech about the uselessness of violence in political discourse,” Shapiro said. “Now half the city’s being shut down. I have to admit that I’m sort of confused as to what I’ve done to cause this. Everyone’s treating it like Godzilla’s coming to town. I know I’ve been working out, but I don’t think I’m that threatening.”
He seems unaware that it was a right-wing protester who drove a car into a crowd at Charlottesville, killing one and hospitalizing 19 more, and the left-vs-right thing has very little room for nuance despite Shapiro having been a vocal opponent of the President. We nonetheless do hope that Berkeley police are less overwhelmed than at August’s alleged anti-Marxist rally, and our thoughts and prayers go out to all the Starbucks windows, Bank of America storefronts, and actual human beings who may find themselves in harm’s way tonight.
Related: Berkeley Mayor Tells Campus That Yiannopoulos/Coulter Event Will Be Public Safety Disaster