Conservative speaker Ben Shapiro visits U of M, protesters await

Conservative speaker Ben Shapiro spoke at the University of Minnesota St. Paul campus Monday - and protesters were ready to be heard.

It’s not the first time a Shapiro speech has been met with backlash, so police came out in full force. They even outnumbered the protesters.

Protesters traveled over to St. Paul ahead of Shapiro taking the stage, saying they are upset with the university for using their student fees to pay Shapiro. Many students feel Shapiro has made racist and homophobic remarks and should not have a platform at the university, which represents a diverse student body.

“His stances on the trans community, and things that he says about the black community being culturally inferior and more likely to be criminals—that hurts me as a person,” one protester said.

Several organizations, including the school's College Republicans, sponsored the event and said it promotes differing viewpoints.

“It’s good to get other people’s takes on things, even if I don’t agree with everything he says or what he believes in - to learn about different things and different people’s views," another student said.

Earlier this week, however, one of the event promoters, the Young America's Foundation, threatened a lawsuit against the university for what they perceive as illegal discrimination. They said the university wasn't giving conservative students equal access to a larger venue, which also forced ticket sales to be cut in half.

Despite the protests and change of venue, Shapiro said he was pleased with the turnout.

"It's good to see you all. I'm glad to see you made the trek to the cow campus," he joked.

University officials said that because of past Shapiro speaking events that have resulted in violent protests, they decided it was safer to have him speak away from the main campus.

"I am glad they are not in proximity to shutting down the rail lines, which is supposedly the reason we were forced to come all the way out here," Shapiro said. "Now the statement from the university president on why we are all out here as opposed to the main campus is just absurd."