VIDEO: UC Berkeley closes streets amid concerns about violence

In this Sept. 8, 2017, photo, a man stands by flyers on a University of California, Berkeley campus bulletin board calling for a protest against right-wing speaker Ben Shapiro in Berkeley, Calif. The university will seal off large parts of its campus like a fortress with a closed perimeter and a “very large” visible police presence Thursday, Sept. 14. City and campus authorities anticipate demonstrations at a speech by conservative commentator Ben Shapiro, a former Breitbart editor, and are preparing for possible violence with a variety of new strategies and tightened security. (AP Photo/Jocelyn Gecker)

 

BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) — The Latest on University of California, Berkeley boosting security ahead of a speech by a conservative commentator (all times local):

8:40 p.m.

A few hundred people are protesting outside a hall where conservative commentator Ben Shapiro is speaking at the University of California, Berkeley.

The demonstrators are peaceful, with some chanting against fascism, white supremacists and President Donald Trump.

A protest sign is tacked to a pole before a speaking engagement by Ben Shapiro on the campus of the University of California Berkeley in Berkeley, Calif., Thursday, Sept. 14, 2017. Several streets around the University of California, Berkeley, were closed off Thursday with concrete and plastic barriers ahead of an evening appearance by the conservative commentator - the latest polarizing event to raise concerns of violence on the famously liberal campus. (AP Photo/Josh Edelson)
A protest sign is tacked to a pole before a speaking engagement by Ben Shapiro on the campus of the University of California Berkeley in Berkeley, Calif., Thursday, Sept. 14, 2017. Several streets around the University of California, Berkeley, were closed off Thursday with concrete and plastic barriers ahead of an evening appearance by the conservative commentator – the latest polarizing event to raise concerns of violence on the famously liberal campus. (AP Photo/Josh Edelson)

Others were holed up Thursday inside a student building. Earlier, they waved signs from a pedestrian walkway protesting the university’s decision to allow the event featuring the former editor at Breitbart News.

Inside the hall, Shapiro addressed a friendly crowd. He encouraged people to hold civil discussions with people who have different opinions, saying that’s what America is all about.

He condemned white supremacists as “a very small select group of absolutely terrible people who believe absolutely terrible things.”

The campus and surrounding Berkeley streets are under tight security after a series of previous events turned violent.

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This item has been corrected to remove a reference to the students inside the building holding signs.

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8 p.m.

Berkeley police say they have arrested two people during protests over a speech by a conservative commentator at the University of California, Berkeley.

City police say 20-year-old Hannah Benjamin was arrested Thursday for battery on a police officer and carrying a banned weapon. Meanwhile, 44-year-old Sarah Roark was taken into custody for carrying a banned weapon.

The arrests were announced on the police Twitter account.

There was a heavy police presence in Berkeley as former Breitbart News editor Ben Shapiro was speaking.

Campus Republicans invited him to come as part of his tour called “Campus Thuggery.”

Dozens of demonstrators were outside the hall where he was speaking, but police kept the two sides apart.

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6:30 p.m.

Dozens of people have lined up to hear a speech at the University of California, Berkeley that has prompted massive security as officials fear violent demonstrations.

Police with riot gear have surrounded the plaza in front of Zellerbach Hall, where the former Breitbart editor Ben Shapiro is set to speak later Thursday.

Eighteen-year-old high school senior Nick Handley says he tried to get others to come to Berkeley with him from Modesto, about 90 miles (145 kilometers) east of San Francisco.

But he says they were scared about the potential violence outside the speech by Shapiro dubbed Campus Thuggery.

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Handley says the heavy police presence is sad, particularly since taxpayer money is being spent.

UC Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof says the security could cost $600,000.

…………………………………………………..

BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) — Several streets around the University of California, Berkeley, were closed off Thursday with concrete and plastic barriers ahead of an evening appearance by a conservative commentator — the latest polarizing event to raise concerns of violence on the famously liberal campus.

Authorities sealed off Sproul Plaza — the central hub of the campus — and created a perimeter around several buildings, including the site where Ben Shapiro, a former editor of Breitbart News, was set to speak to a sold-out audience of 1,000 people.

Shapiro was invited to speak by campus Republicans, who say the liberal university stifles the voice of conservative speakers.

The city and campus have become a flashpoint this year for the country’s political divisions, drawing extremist groups from the left and right.

“We can’t turn a blind eye to reality and to what we’ve learned from recent events on this campus and in this city and around the country,” UC Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof said.

He said the school is committed to ensuring the safety of students and people attending the event, and to making it successful.

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There will be several checkpoints outside the auditorium where the speech is planned, and officers will be looking to confiscate banned items such as shields, masks, bandanas, poles and torches, UC Berkeley Police Chief Margo Bennett said.

For the first time in two decades, city officers were authorized by the City Council to use pepper spray to control violence.

University police do not intend to use pepper spray but “that’s not saying we won’t if circumstances call for them,” Bennett said.

In this Sept. 8, 2017, photo, a woman tapes flyers on a University of California, Berkeley campus bulletin board calling for a protest against right-wing speaker Ben Shapiro in Berkeley, Calif. The university will seal off large parts of its campus like a fortress with a closed perimeter and a “very large” visible police presence Thursday, Sept. 14. City and campus authorities anticipate demonstrations at a speech by conservative commentator Ben Shapiro, a former Breitbart editor, and are preparing for possible violence with a variety of new strategies and tightened security. (AP Photo/Jocelyn Gecker)
In this Sept. 8, 2017, photo, a woman tapes flyers on a University of California, Berkeley campus bulletin board calling for a protest against right-wing speaker Ben Shapiro in Berkeley, Calif. The university will seal off large parts of its campus like a fortress with a closed perimeter and a “very large” visible police presence Thursday, Sept. 14. City and campus authorities anticipate demonstrations at a speech by conservative commentator Ben Shapiro, a former Breitbart editor, and are preparing for possible violence with a variety of new strategies and tightened security. (AP Photo/Jocelyn Gecker)

City Police Chief Andrew Greenwood said officers would make “very strong, rapid arrests” of protesters wielding weapons and wearing masks.

Four political demonstrations have turned violent in Berkeley since February, prompting officers to come up with new strategies to control rowdy and sometimes dangerous crowds.

“We have seen extremists on the left and right in our city,” said Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin, a Democrat who backed the police request to use pepper spray. “We need to make sure violence is not allowed.”

The Berkeley College Republicans invited right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos to speak last February, but the event was abruptly canceled when masked left-wing anarchists rioted outside the event to shut it down.

Police and UC Berkeley officials were criticized at the time for giving demonstrators wide latitude and standing aside as the anarchists hurled Molotov cocktails at officers and caused $100,000 worth of damage.

Tighter security measures were expected to disrupt campus life Thursday and later this month, when Yiannopoulos says he plans to hold a “Free Speech Week” on campus that features conservative commentator Ann Coulter and Steve Bannon, ex-chief strategist for President Donald Trump who has returned to Breitbart News.

Campus officials say that event is not yet confirmed.

Sociology professor Michael Burawoy, who is chairman of the Berkeley Faculty Association, said frustration is growing over the disruptions.

“We bring them on campus and allow them to speak and we encourage both right- and left-wing groups” to hold potentially violent protests, he said. “If we exclude them, they say Berkeley doesn’t believe in free speech. It’s a lose-lose situation.”

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