Community members gather to discuss protesting Ben Shapiro's visit to campus

Sunday, February 24, 2019 - 7:28pm

Adam Nash speaks at the first coalition meeting against on Ben Shapiro visiting the University at Crazy Wisdom Tea Room Friday night.

Adam Nash speaks at the first coalition meeting against on Ben Shapiro visiting the University at Crazy Wisdom Tea Room Friday night. Buy this photo
Ruchita Iyer/Daily

Ann Arbor residents and University of Michigan students gathered Friday Night in the tea room of Crazy Wisdom Bookstore to discuss ways to protest conservative author and commentator Ben Shapiro’s visit to campus, which is scheduled to occur on March 12.

Those gathered at the meeting went over a powerpoint on strategies for the protest and who Ben Shapiro is, followed by a brainstorm session. Ann Arbor activist Adam Nash, who helped organize the meeting, stated the goal was to simply create a solution as a group to respond to Shapiro’s event.

“We’re here because Ben Shapiro was invited to campus to speak on March 12,” Nash said. “We just want to talk about what our community response should be to this.”

Nash broke down their approach through Saint Paul’s Principles. The principles, developed in Saint Paul, Minn., include solidarity based on respect, organization of tactics to maintain a separation of time and space, avoiding public denunciations of other activist groups and not engaging in any violent actions.

Nash then shared information he had gathered about who Shapiro is and how he conveys his message to the masses. He described Shapiro’s tactics as a continuous comedic bit.

“His tactics are, in my analysis, stand up comedy acts,” Nash said. “He tells stories, he has jokes, he has one-liners, it’s all very rehearsed.”

Nash believes that his acts are backed by “fear-mongering rhetoric.” He said he finds Shapiro’s rhetoric to be transphobic, homophobic and anti-choice, sharing quotes from his book and his speeches.

“This is what he stands for,” Nash said. “He’s vehemently anti-trans: ‘Transgender people are unfortunately suffering from a mental illness.’”

Stop Trump Ann Arbor activist Jessica Prozinski told The Daily after the event agreed with Nash’s statements characterizing Shapiro and believes his visit should be protested.

“We heard Ben Shapiro is coming to campus and he can’t come here without being countered strongly,” Prozinski said. “Ben Shapiro is a liar for cash. Alt-right bigots are not the only ones who have free-speech rights.”

After the presentation, residents and students discussed plans for their protest. The common thread was to distract from Shapiro’s message. This includes inviting other activist groups to the protest, diverging attendees’ attention through live entertainment and educating the public about why Shapiro’s message is harmful.

LSA sophomore James Stuart attended the meeting because he wanted to become more involved with activism.

“I am excited about this,” Stuart said. “We have the opportunity to show that there’s another side on the campus. I’m sure most people would agree mostly with what we’re saying.”

Young Americans for Freedom, the organization that invited Shapiro to campus, attempts to educate students on conservative values such as individual freedom, limited government, free markets and traditional values.

Vice Chair of YAF Kate Westa, who was not in attendance at the meeting, shared her thoughts with The Daily. She disagreed with not allowing Shapiro onto campus believing it infringed upon diversity of opinions.

“It's unfortunate, however, that some groups seek to deplatform Shapiro and disrupt this event,” Westa wrote in an email interview. “Higher education is supposed to be the place where intellectual diversity flourishes. Time and time again, these groups display a complete lack of tolerance for divergent viewpoints.”