Berkeley finally caught a break Thursday night as the California city managed to accommodate a political event featuring former Breitbart News columnist and conservative provocateur Ben Shapiro thanks to a massive police presence.
According to several media reports, the city and the University of California-Berkeley spent an estimated $600,000 to pay for additional security for the event, including metal detectors and barricades designed to separate attendees from protesters. An estimated 700 people were admitted to the speech while around 1,000 people protested it outside. A university police spokesman said that just 9 people were arrested.
Shapiro's address was the first large-scale far right event in the city in recent months that did not break out into melee combat. In February, a speech by Shapiro's former colleague Milo Yiannopoulos was canceled after opponents set fires and threw smoke bombs and threatened violence. Conservative columnist Ann Coulter canceled a speech after university officials tried to get her to change its date and location. Local law enforcement said they could not guarantee her safety.
Shapiro's event was sponsored by the Berkeley College Republicans. Kyle “Based Stickman” Chapman — a Trump supporter who heads a paramilitary group called the Fraternal Order of Alt Knights — attended and asked a question afterward about "racism against whites." Shapiro responded by saying that affirmative action policies were racist, according to the local student newspaper, the Daily Californian.
Though he is known for his strong anti-government views, Shapiro was an opponent of President Donald Trump during last year's Republican primaries. He started up a blog called the Daily Wire which was funded by two billionaires who backed Trump's primary opponent, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. Shapiro eventually resigned his Breitbart News position in protest of what he said was the site's bias toward Trump.
Though there were several instances where attendees had to navigate through crowds of protesters, police managed to mostly prevent outbreaks of violence.