Despite the University of Minnesota's decision to use the "protesters' veto" as an excuse to "quarantine" an event featuring Daily Wire Editor-in-Chief Ben Shapiro, the conservative commentator and author's speech to a packed house went off without a hitch — that is, if you consider the university feeling that barricades, a helicopter, and dozens of police officers were necessary, all so a speaker could express some mainstream conservative opinions, going off "without a hitch."
Shapiro drew attention to the literally embattled state of free speech on campus in his talk Monday. "There are a hundred police officers that were necessary to protect you guys and to protect me so that I can say conservative things," he said.
And as City Pages reveals in its coverage of the event, Shapiro wasn't exaggerating. In fact, not only was the venue lined with police "geared up" to keep any potential rioters in check, there were also barricades that "ringed the student center" and a helicopter that "hummed overhead."
Among the "highly controversial" topics Shapiro discussed that required such tight security to protect conservative-leaning students: Can a conservative date a leftist? Another "controversial" argument from Shapiro: A nation should be based on a creed, not an ethnicity. And another: We need to stop sacrificing free speech out of fear of protesters' violence, like the university had done by moving Shapiro's event to a space that could hold less than half the number of students than requested.
In early February, the university faced backlash after it announced that it would move the Young America's Foundation-sponsored event off of its main campus to the North Star Ballroom on its St. Paul campus, a smaller venue the university claimed it chose out of "safety concerns."
The university's rationale? A previous campus event starring Lauren Southern was crashed by around 200 left-wing protesters, many with their faces covered and resorting to violence — a situation that resulted in one arrest. Out of fear of yet another violent left-wing/Antifa protest, the university moved Shapiro off the main campus.
Shapiro and YAF pushed back against the university for using the "rioters' veto" to effectively suppress the speech. Shapiro called on those who support free speech on campus to demand the university not "quarantine" the event. "Call University of Minnesota right now and tell them to fulfill their Constitutional obligation not to discriminate based on political message," he wrote in a tweet.
On its website, YAF also called out the university for having "sequestered" the event to a "desolate venue, miles from the main campus" that seated just 400 rather than the 800 to 1,500-seat space they requested. YAF also partnered with Alliance for Defending Freedom to threaten a lawsuit against the university for its unequal treatment of conservatives.
In response to Minnesota's troubling actions, two Republican Minnesota legislators, Rep. Bud Nornes and Sen. Carla Nelson, proposed a "campus neutrality" bill intended to protect free speech, but also forbidding faculty from abusing their positions to promote personal politics, a move that received its own backlash from free speech supporters.
All this so one conservative could stand in front of a room full of students and "say conservative things."
By the way, in case you're wondering how Shapiro answered the dating question, here's the video: