Utah Stories

University of Utah Students Protest Conservative Pundit Ben Shapiro

Is free speech threatened as radical elements on both the right and the left promote hate and anger?


Police presence at the University of Utah campus on the day Ben Shapiro spoke.

September 27, 2017: University of Utah—Protesters chanted “Black Lives Matter!” Then, “5-6-7-8, America was never great!”

Protesters and counter-protesters alike were angry to the point of boiling over. I witnessed counter-protester posters being torn. Pushing and shoving ensued, and two people were arrested.

The protest was due to Ben Shapiro, a podcaster, syndicated columnist, and frequent CNN and Fox News guest, who came to the U of U to espouse his conservative viewpoints, funded by Young Americans for Freedom, a conservative youth organization.

When I first arrived, just outside of the BHS auditorium, fans were taking photos of YouTuber, Steven Crowder. He announced that they were “giving footage to the local police” that could be used as evidence to prosecute some would-be Antifa (Anti-fascist) agitators. Earlier, I heard him say that the “mainstream media was ignoring him.” He was posing for a cameraman who was taking footage of him as the hero of his popular YouTube channel, “Louder with Crowder.”

I later learned that Crowder’s sidekick, Jared, had infiltrated Antifa, which had intended to use knives and other weapons to stab counter-protesters or Ben Shapiro fans. Jared documented with hidden cameras that Antifa members were carrying concealed knives. The mainstream media didn’t initially cover this event, but now it’s been covered by Fox13, The Blaze, and the Washington Times. The video reveals the tactics of the now-notorious Antifa organization.

An estimated 400 sign-carrying people were at the University of Utah were protesting Ben Shapiro as if David Duke or Adolf Hitler themselves had been invited to speak. While interviewing protesters, I discovered that 90% of them had no specific knowledge about who Ben Shapiro was or what he actually stood for. “He spews hatred,” one protester said. “He incites violence,” said another.

But when I asked specifically what he had said that was hateful or violent, only one protester had actually listened to him. She didn’t believe Shapiro understood the reasons why so many blacks live in poverty, and that he was “ignoring institutional racism of colored people” like herself.

Most protesters refused interviews and preferred to chant slogans such as “Stand up and fight back!” and “Ben Shapiro go to hell!” My question is this: How did these protesters determine that Ben Shapiro is a hate-mongering bigot?

What is SDS? Ben Shapiro has become one of the main targets of the SDS (Students for a Democratic Society)—a group that funds demonstrations to shut down conservative speakers on college campuses. There were many liberal Democrats at the protest, speaking out against the practice of attempting to suppress free speech and the free-marketplace of ideas. In this flyer Shapiro is described as a “right-wing bigot,” and the flyer insinuates that he is a neo-Nazi. In reality, Shapiro is an Orthodox Jew; and he condemns the Alt-right and white supremacy.

Two days later I found out. A group called Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) produced a flyer that was placed all over the campus of the University of Utah with the headline “Shut Down Ben Shapiro.” The information on the flyer characterizes Shapiro as being an alt-right, bigoted racist, and anti-LGBTQ. SDS and Antifa told the Daily Caller that their intention was to prevent Shapiro from speaking in Utah. But the SDS literature on Shapiro is completely inaccurate.

Shapiro is an orthodox Jew. He condemns the Alt-right, and he isn’t racist. Shapiro has spoken out against the Alt-right and opposes racial profiling in immigration and actually supports parts of DACA. Still, he has become a target, likely because he has the largest conservative podcast on iTunes and is a regular on CNN and Fox News.

The police presence on campus was prepared for a riot. Around 60 officers were on hand to keep protesters at bay, and many more were waiting in the wings with riot gear. Thanks to the police, the speech went on as planned with only minor skirmishes.

Utah Stories produced a video with about a dozen interviews from students at the event. Our video demonstrates the level of hate and anger that the far left has for the right. And the comments on the video demonstrate the level of anger that the YouTube community has for the demonstrators who are trying to label so many on the right as “racists.”

It’s clear that our country is facing radical elements on both the right and the left: Antifa on the left promoting violence, and the alt-right, which is promoting racism and white supremacy. The Charlottesville incident is indicative of the growing problem. The sad part is that most of the anger we witnessed on the U of U campus was caused by misinformation.

Ben Shapiro is not Richard Spencer or David Duke. After Shapiro gives a speech on a campus, he always tells the liberals who disagree with him to go to the front of the line to ask questions. He enjoys and invites debate with intelligent people who disagree with him.

Contrast this attitude with Antifa, which has attempted to shut down speakers on college campuses all over the country. They successfully shut down speakers on the campus of Berkeley, including Milo Yiannopoulos, and caused thousands of dollars of damage to campus buildings by throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails.

The irony the Antifa group fails to see is that a major element of fascism is the condemnation of the same free speech they claim to promote. SDS, in their attempt to shut down Shapiro, needs to understand that the word “Democratic” means accepting the concept of a free-marketplace of ideas. Any stated objective to “Shut-Down Shapiro” defies what they are fighting for.

Two questions for SDS, BLM and Antifa: Why not put your efforts into facilitating public debates? Why do you wish to silence speakers? I greatly appreciated Ian and Alyshia, the only two student protesters I met who could articulate why they were protesting, after doing research to substantiate their views. §

Watch our YouTube video with over 300 comments and 15,000 views. Let’s encourage civil debate of the issues that matter, and present truth to power.

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