Campus News

Students protest lecture by former Breitbart editor

Two conservative speakers, former Breitbart editor Ben Shapiro and editor-in-chief of Forbes Media Steve Forbes, were subjected to student protests at UW-Madison this year.

Image By: Andrew Bahl

Student activists protested a lecture called "Dismantling Safe Spaces: Facts Don’t Care About Your Feelings" by conservative media personality Ben Shapiro Wednesday evening.

The protest, which began at 6 p.m. atop Bascom Hill, hoped to disrupt the speech and “dismantle the violent space,” as described on the protest’s Facebook page.

“We want to [make visible] students that feel targeted by the presence of [the] event,” said Cody Fearing, one of students who coordinated the protest.

Shapiro is the former editor-at-large of Breitbart News and is now the editor-in-chief of dailywire.com. Hours before his scheduled presentation, he tweeted, “Apparently I'm being protested tonight at UW-Madison by one white supremacist group and two Black Lives Matters groups. Sounds about right.”

Fearing believes it was not appropriate for the school to host this event.

“In a climate where hate speech is being condoned frankly at an institutional level, at an institution that is not taking a firm stand, we are going to,” Fearing said.

Around 15 protesters rose from the crowd about five minutes into Shapiro’s remarks with one group chanting “shame!” and the other “safety!” This continued intermittently until attendees began shouting back.

Members of the crowd who had come to see Shapiro stood and reproached the protesters, including one woman who said she “had worked in a food pantry all day and [was] tired,” and a man claiming his military service helped secure their right to protest in the first place. Both were met with applause from the audience.

Eventually the protesters made their way to the stage and stood in front of Shapiro, who proceeded to write “MORONS” on the blackboard behind him. This was followed by the crowd giving the protesters an opportunity to articulate their reasons for being there, but the atmosphere quickly devolved into more shouting.

The protesters left soon after and were encouraged to leave by UWPD officers and university officials, but could still be heard chanting for some time in the hall outside.

The university said they worked to foster an environment where both sides could express their views.

“We are dedicated to promoting a campus environment where all people feel valued and respected,” the university said in a release. “To that end, the university expects community members to engage in discussion, especially over controversial issues, in ways that are respectful of others’ viewpoints and that promote greater understanding. We are disappointed that some attendees at the event chose not to do so.”

Sammy Gibbons contributed to this report.

UPDATE 11/17/16 1:07 a.m.: This story was updated to include the title of the event.

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