Berkeley Police look ahead to Free Speech Week

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U.C. Berkeley returned to normal Friday, one speech and $600,000 later. 

Now the question: will the university have to shell out many times that amount for security when more controversial speakers come in just over a week.

"Obviously those are resources we would rather spend on the academic vision, on the student experience, but we can't complain," spokesman Dan Mogulof told KTVU, "and we can't turn a blind eye to recent events."

The university was widely criticized when anarchist protesters overran Sproul Plaza during a Milo Yiannopolous appearance in February, setting fires and vandalizing the student union. Yiannopolous never made it to the stage.

Now, he and a student publication, "Berkeley Patriots" are planning what they call "Free Speech Week," September 24-27, with more than 20 conservative speakers appearing over four days. 

As for the prospects of another lock down?

"It's on a case by case basis, this is not a cookie cutter approach," says Mogulof. 

Mogulof points out, organizers of the upcoming event have not secured insurance, paid fees, provided police with details, or signed contracts with venues or speakers. 

"We wish the university would come directly to us with this type of information, " responded Bryce Kasamoto, spokesman for "Berkeley Patriots".

"We're working consistently right now, and hope to have all these issues resolved soon and I predict Free Speech Week will happen without a hitch.  

There is one hitch: more than 100 faculty members are calling for a school-wide boycott that week, asking staff and students to desert classes and campus activities.

The professors, from various departments, call the event "a clear threat to public higher education."

In a letter to the campus community, they warn "people are coming to humiliate others and incite violence. The boycott is a refusal to allow this to happen on our campus."

"I've heard about the boycotts but I've got mid-terms during free speech week so I'm planning to go to class," freshman Elizabeth Pegg told KTVU, " although yesterday,

my roommates and everyone on our floor just hunkered down in our dorm room, we didn't really come to campus after it got started." 

Heavy police presence kept warring sides from getting physical, for the most part.

Although after Shapiro's speech let out, a few arguments ended with shoving and fists, and a few people knocked down.  

For those who invited commentator Shapiro, the heavy security worked, no  disruption. 

"Certainly what happened last night, would be encouraging for any speaker who wants to come to Cal because it's proof the university can step up," observed

Troy Worden, President of the Berkeley College Republicans.

For those who didn't want Shapiro, the university misused it's muscle protecting the wrong side. 

"I've never even had a moving violation, "exclaimed artist Sarah Roark, who was among nine protesters arrested on charges ranging from assault to carrying a banned weapon. 

Roark spent her first-ever night in jail, then returned to Sproul Plaza with a protest sign, identical to the one that got her arrested.

"You can see there is no wood of any kind, no pole, it's just cardboard," she showed KTVU. 

Roark was handcuffed and her sign confiscated as a weapon; deputies told it was too big.   

"The only thing they say on the city website about size of signs, is you have to be able to hold in in your hands," insisted her husband Brett Roark, " and I'm able to hold it in one, not even two hands."

And if Free Speech Week happens, as advertised ?

"Are you kidding me ? Of course I'm going to be back, "Roark declared, "because everything I know tells me we are headed down a dangerous path. And when history speaks, I listen."

 

 

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