SALT LAKE CITY -- The University of Utah is not taking this controversial event lightly, and campus officials have been planning and preparing for Ben Shapiro’s arrival for weeks, even taking a trip out of state to see him speak at another university a few weeks ago.
University spokesman Chris Nelson says they’re hoping for the best.
“Bottom line from the university: I think we’re cautiously optimistic,” Nelson said.
However, they’re preparing for the worst.
“Our police will go in, they will secure it," Nelson said. "They’ll sweep it for any type of bombs or weapons that might be placed in there."
Former Breitbart editor Ben Shapiro spoke at the University of California, Berkeley a few weeks ago, an event some University of Utah campus officials attended to gain better insight on how to prepare.
“Berkeley a very different campus than the University of Utah," Nelson said. "Kind of home of the free speech movement in the 1960s, so they’re really good at this, they’re used to dealing with this."
In an email sent out Tuesday, students were told they couldn’t wear any masks, bandanas, or other face coverings if they plan on protesting outside. Similar restrictions are in place for people attending his speech inside.
“Pretty much people are just going to be allowed to be in there themselves, no purses, backpacks, anything like signs or anything,” Nelson said.
Barricades are being set up around the auditorium, separating protesters from counter protesters, hoping to make the event safe for everyone to express their views.
Jasmine Robinson, a member of the black student union, says racial tension on campus has been escalating lately and she wouldn’t be surprised if things got out of hand.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if there would be a need for all these precautions," Robinson said.
There are multiple protests planned for Wednesday, one organized by Students for a Democratic Society, another organized by Salt Lake’s Black Lives Matter movement, plus counter-protests.
“Bring a poster, come and be ready to just kind of chant," Robinson said. "They’re supposed to be peaceful protests though. There’s no indication that any of these protests are supposed to be violent right now."
Even if they do turn violent, the university feels prepared to handle it.
“We think we have a good plan in place. We’ll certainly scale it up if necessary,” Nelson said.
All 40 University of Utah police officers will be on hand for Wednesday’s event, and they’ll be getting assistance from Salt Lake City Police and the Utah Highway Patrol.
Extra security measures ended up costing Berkley $600,000. Nelson says the student organization responsible for bringing Shapiro, The Young America’s Foundation, will be expected to pay for the officers inside the venue and other associated facility costs. No word on the price tag of any of that so far.