The University of California Berkeley heightened security as it prepares to host conservative commentator Ben Shapiro Thursday night. He is the latest polarizing figure to raise concerns about safety and violence on the very liberal campus, reports Associated Press.
The campus’ central hub, Sproul Plaza, will be sealed off with a “closed perimeter” around several buildings where Shapiro is scheduled to speak. His talk is sold out to a 1,000-person audience.
There will also be an increased police presence, and for the first time in 20 years, officers are allowed to use pepper spray to control violence, reports AP. The city council recently modified a 1997 ban during an emergency meeting.
Any protestors carrying weapons and wearing masks will be arrested rapidly, Berkeley city police chief Andrew Greenwood told AP.
All this build up is based on multiple clashes between extremist groups from the left- and right-wing. AP writes that four political demonstrations have turned violent in Berkeley since February.
Last February, the Berkeley College Republicans invited right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos to speak on at UC Berkeley, but the event was shut down because of riots outside the event. The campus Republicans invited Shapiro, and say the liberal university “stifles the voice of conservative speakers” writes AP.
These new security measures will most likely come into play again soon, since Yiannopoulos says he wants to hold a “Free Speech Week” on UC Berkeley campus including speakers like Ann Coulter and Stephen Bannon. That event is not yet confirmed, writes AP.