Berkeley bans shields, smoke canisters for Ben Shapiro’s UC Berkeley speech

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Berkeley released two lists of items Wednesday that will be temporarily banned from public parks and a large portion of the city in anticipation of right-wing commentator Ben Shapiro’s speech at UC Berkeley on Thursday.

Billy clubs, torches and flags or signs mounted on poles not attached to a building are banned throughout the area of the city bordered west to east by Martin Luther King Jr. Way and Piedmont Avenue and bordered south to north by Dwight Way and Cedar Street. Additionally, in Ohlone Park, Willard Park and Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park, metal pipes, smoke canisters and baseball bats are also banned.

In each of the three parks, masks or bandanas that hide the face will be prohibited aside from coverings worn for religious beliefs. Both lists ban shields, poles, torches, fireworks and pepper spray, as well as other “implements of riot.”

“These rules are intended to assist those wishing to peaceably express their First Amendment Rights,” wrote city manager Dee Williams-Ridley.

The city’s statement referenced the Aug. 27 rally and counterprotests in Civic Center Park, as well as the fiery protests that erupted on campus and spilled into the city streets during Milo Yiannopoulos’s event in February, citing the violence at these events as rationale for the temporary item ban.

On Tuesday, City Council approved the Berkeley Police Department’s request to be allowed to use pepper spray on violent protesters for the first time in 20 years. The request, which went into effect immediately, was met with controversy and outrage from the community, many of whom stated that they did not trust the police to avoid spraying nonviolent protesters.

“For peaceful protesters, there are a number of things people can do to stay safe,” Ridley wrote. “Separate yourself from people committing violence. Doing so not only keeps you safe, it prevents criminal acts from being done under the cover of a peaceful crowd. That allows police to focus on criminal acts.”

Ashley Wong is an assistant news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @wongalum.