BERKELEY (KCBS) — The sidewalk in front of Zellerbach Hall was covered with chalk graffiti Thursday afternoon condemning fascism and xenophobia as the hours ticked down to a speech Thursday night by conservative commentator Ben Shapiro.
“Free Speech Is Not Hate Speech” read one, “Power To The People” another and “Resistence” read a third.
Nearby UC Berkeley freshman Matthew Barnett was a little stunned as he looked over the preparations underway on campus for the speech by conservative commentator Ben Shapiro.
Work crews were erecting concrete barriers on the streets leading into campus. Busy Bancroft Way was walled off and all parking on it banned. A heavy police presence was already visible on the streets.
“The idea that we should have all this security just to have one person speak is a little insane,” Barnett told KPIX 5.
Meanwhile, law student Anthony Jenny said he was going to the speech to hear what Shapiro had to say.
“They (the protesters) are demoting Ben Shapiro for being a fascist meanwhile they are targeting people with conservative views and trying to ruin their lives,” he told KPIX 5.
Authorities plan to seal off the campus’ central hub, Sproul Plaza, the student union and Zellerbach Hall, creating a perimeter around several buildings. There will be checkpoints on campus where only ticket holders will be allowed through.
Shapiro, a former editor of Breitbart News, was set to speak to a sold-out, 1,000-person audience at 7 p.m. Counter protesters plan to arrive hours earlier.