Ben Shapiro’s visit cost UC Berkeley an estimated $600k for security

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Yukun Zhang/File

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In anticipation of potentially violent protests, the campus paid an estimated $600,000 in security expenses for conservative author Ben Shapiro’s visit Thursday, according to campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof.

The campus is still compiling invoices for the event to determine the exact cost of security for Thursday night, Mogulof said. Police officers from UCPD, Berkeley Police Department and Alameda County Sheriff’s Office provided security for the event, and UCPD also set up a barricade to surround six buildings, including Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union, Zellerbach Hall, Cesar E. Chavez Student Center and Eshleman Hall.

Shapiro’s event, however, continued without interruption, while protests that took place outside were largely contained and peaceful.

Mogulof said the campus based their security assessment on past protests that broke into violence, specifically the Milo Yiannopoulos protests in February. He added that “there’s no crystal ball” when it comes to preparing security for political events and speeches, which have often been disrupted by violence around the country.

Andrea Prichett, member of the Police Review Commission and a founding member of Copwatch, said the number of police officers “seemed excessive.” She added that she would have to reserve judgment because it is possible that police could have received some threat that the public was unaware of.

Prichett said, however, that she had concerns about the banned item list, which called for the arrest of individuals holding items that are typically legal in other situations.

She added that some individuals who were arrested had their mugshots released by BPD with the description that they were arrested on suspicion of possession of a banned weapon — but in some cases, Prichett said, the alleged “banned weapon” was a cardboard sign.

Campus student Emanuel Velazquez said he believed that the police were over-prepared, causing an inconvenience to students.

“We have to deal with it as students,” Velazquez said. “(Thursday) was militarized.”

Contact Elise Ulwelling at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @EMarieulwelling.