Despite a ton of brouhaha and a para-miltary-style battening of the hatches by Berkeley police over the return of a conservative speaker whose last appearance at UC Berkeley a mere 17 months ago barely garnered a tweet, the situation Thursday night was not the epic nightmare battle of antifa vs. alt-right that some had feared. A couple hundred protesters marched in the streets of Berkeley after the scheduled appearance by Ben Shapiro, which was attended by about 700 people, and no major violence was reported. The New York Times reports that UC Berkeley estimates they spent about $600,000 on the additional security they believed was necessary to secure the event.
As the Daily Cal reports from inside the Shapiro event, Shapiro said he was not a white nationalist and that he'd spent his career assailing the "alt-right," but then when noted white nationalist and alt-right hero Kyle "Based Stickman" Chapman stood up to ask a question at the event, Shapiro betrayed some of his gray area in these matters Chapman asked a question about "racism against whites," and Shapiro answered by saying something about how affirmative action is a racist policy.
The Daily Cal also reports that "trans patriot" Amber Cummings attended the protests outside, to show her "support for free speech," she said, but she did not attend Shapiro's speech.
There were nine people arrested amid the protests, which went on until about 11 p.m. As ABC 7 reports, among them were four people who arrived in a public park with a banned weapon, and a couple of people arrested for battery. One was arrested for public intoxication and disturbing the peace.
Per ABC 7:
The greatest drama came from when a group of about two dozen students staged a protest on a walkway over the entrance to the event, where police were conducting careful screenings of ticket holders. The group hung signs that said, "UC protects fascism, not students," and "trans lives matter here."
This group appears to be connected to a larger group that the Daily Cal says had been staging a sit-in at the MLK Student Union building, which the campus had ordered closed for security purposes. Students had been sitting in and refusing to leave since 3 p.m. Thursday, and as one of the protesters told the Daily Cal, "We are tired of being pushed out of our spaces. We want to be put before the speakers that are coming to our campus. It’s not just the fact that this person says horrible things that do impact communities in different ways. These events are displacing a lot of students."
ABC 7 notes that the students had put up signs in the window of the building, near where Shapiro was speaking saying ""stolen land" and "f--k Carol" directed at UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ, blaming her for allowing the event to go forward.
Despite there not being as large, violent, or unwieldy of a protest as was feared, UC Berkeley police Chief Margo Bennett tells ABC 7 it wasn't overkill because "we wouldn't have been doing our duty if we didn't look at the worst case scenario."
Earlier in the week, the Berkeley Police Department received authorization from the city to use pepper-spray against violent protesters, in anticipation both of this event and a planned "Free Speech Week" scheduled to happen from September 24 to 27.
SF Weekly has the full speaker list for that, which as we heard this week is *supposed to* include Steve Bannon and Ann Coulter, and which we now learn will also feature Richard Spencer associate and anti-Muslim activist Pamela Geller, alt-right social media personality and conspiracy theorist Mike Cernovich, and recently fired Google engineer James Damore.