I have spoken at college campuses for well over a decade. I’ve been booed, protested, and targeted for hate mail.
I have never seen or experienced anything like the near-riot that occurred at California State University in Los Angeles on Thursday afternoon when I came to speak.
Here’s the backstory.
Several weeks ago, Young America’s Foundation announced that I would be touring the country speaking to college students with the Fred R. Allen lecture series. The first campus scheduled, thanks to the hard work of young YAF volunteers, was California State University in Los Angeles.
As Breitbart News reported, the consternation from the left was vociferous:
Professor Robert Weide threatened to wrestle students for sponsoring the event, and Black Lives Matter activist Professor Melina Abdullah, who took to Facebook to complain, “I say this event is a problem…What we go’n do y’all?!?!” One of the commenters, Ruben Martin, replied, “You want I should hoiwt’em bwoss? I’s got a fews ideas me n’d’fellas been kickin ‘round. Only ting iz he won’t be talking or lookin so nice no more. We’ll take the cannolies…” CSULA students have said the event poses a “threat to their lives” and is “damaging to their mental health.”
On the Monday before the event, the president of the university, William Covino, told YAF that he had cancelled the event:
After careful consideration, I have decided that it will be best for our campus community if we reschedule Ben Shapiro’s appearance for a later date, so that we can arrange for him to appear as part of a group of speakers with differing viewpoints on diversity. Such an event will better represent our university’s dedication to the free exchange of ideas and the value of considering multiple viewpoints.
Shutting down a conservative event in the name of diversity and free speech. Typical. And this followed the university illegally attempting to force the YAF students to pay for security thanks to their viewpoint.
I, along with YAF, quickly announced that we wouldn’t be participating in any phantom event, and that the cancellation was of no consequence: we were coming anyway. I told the media I’d show up come hell or high water.
For two days, we heard nothing from the university. I called defense lawyers in preparation for the possibility that we might be arrested for attempting to participate in free speech. Then, about an hour and a half before we were scheduled to come to campus, we received news that the president had backed down. He had no choice, given that he had violated First Amendment rights repeatedly.
Covino announced the event would indeed go forward, blathering:
My decision was made in the interest of safety and security. I am disappointed that Mr. Shapiro has not accepted my invitation to speak in such a forum. He has indicated that he will come to Cal State LA to speak today at the University-Student Union Theatre, where he was originally scheduled to deliver this talk.
He added, “I strongly disagree with Mr. Shapiro’s views.”
Yeah, we got that, you sad little bureaucratic totalitarian.
We got texts from YAF students on the ground informing us that things were getting ugly: reports of violent protesters, screaming students, rabblerousing professors blocking people from entering the auditorium. Police cars everywhere. Uniformed officers everywhere. Helicopters.
The reports were right.
Outside the hall, Breitbart’s Adelle Nazarian was assaulted by protesters.
Inside the building but outside the auditorium, Jeffrey Minter, an atheist liberal disabled due to nerve damage, wanted to see me speak. The crowd reportedly assaulted him, pushed him to the ground, and kicked him. He went to the emergency room and has filed a police report. A student said that he watched as a fellow student was assaulted; protesters told him he could be stabbed.
The officers, reportedly under orders from the administration, did nothing to prevent the protesters from obstructing access to the auditorium. Let me repeat: a state-run institution apparently told state-paid police officers to allow protesters to violate the free speech and free assembly rights of conservatives and those who wish to hear them. In the United States.
By the time we arrived, hundreds of students had mobbed virtually every entrance and exit. And all hell was breaking loose:
Those who wanted to hear me speak were blocked completely. A line eventually formed outside a secret back entrance, where students were sneaked in three and four at a time – a smuggling ring of free speech.
By the time I arrived, tensions were at fever pitch. I was quickly ushered into a back entrance, into an elevator, and then backstage, where no fewer than 10 uniformed police officers were waiting. I thanked them protecting everyone and keeping us safe, and apologized for the circumstances.
We were told that if we waited for everyone who wanted to hear the speech to be sneaked in, we’d be waiting almost two more hours. I briefly considered walking into the crowd with a bullhorn to give the speech; security told me that would be impossible, and took me to one of the doors to listen to the chaos.
We eventually decided along with YAF to go ahead in the auditorium.
Here were my full remarks, watched by 60,000 people live and more than 200,000 people over the next few hours:
As you can see, during the course of the speech, the protesters pulled the fire alarm – literally shouting fire in a crowded theater. There have been no arrests and there will be no investigation. I continued with the remarks.
When I concluded, I asked the students if they wanted to go outside to confront the anti-free speech protesters. They were gung ho, but I told them I needed to check with campus police and security first.
After walking backstage, my security team, former Israeli military who had worked in crowd control situations, told me that it wouldn’t be advisable to go out. Then campus security explained that if I went out there, they “couldn’t guarantee your security” and added that they couldn’t guarantee the security of the students either. One of my security guards told me that the crowd had already entered mob territory, and that one thrown punch could start a riot.
Here were my closing remarks to the students after learning that we couldn’t get out safely:
We walked backstage, where two police officers exited through another doorway as a decoy, and another 10 uniformed police officers escorted us through a roundabout route to our car. My security told me to walk quickly to the vehicle and duck into the rear seat of the three-row van for safety. Two motorcycle cops escorted us from campus, lights flashing.
This is America 2016.
And this bullshit cannot stand.
But it will stand if we don’t stand together. What I witnessed – and what the brave students standing for free speech experienced – was a full outbreak of the fascist mentality, urged and spurred on by state-paid professors, greenlit by state-paid administrators. Nobody should have to exercise free speech by sneaking in the back door while the fascists block the front door. Not in America.
So, as I tweeted yesterday, here’s my message to the campus left:
Note to campus leftists: Fuck you and fuck your fascism. #FightForLiberty
— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) February 25, 2016
We’ll be seeing you at campuses from University of North Carolina to George Washington University to University of California at Berkeley.
Precious snowflakes, we’re coming. And liberty is coming with us.