By Sabrina Schnur
BU News Service
BOSTON — An appearance by conservative commentator Ben Shapiro brought hundreds of students from greater Boston into below-freezing weather Wednesday night to denounce what many called fascist, racist and intolerant speech being supported by Boston University on its own campus.
Recent graduates and current students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston University, Boston College and several other nearby schools participated in open mic soliloquies or stood silently in solidarity outside BU’s Track & Tennis Center in West Campus to protest Shapiro’s speech and the university’s decision to foot the security costs for the event, estimated at $13,000.
Less than three hours after BU announced the location of Shapiro’s speech, 133 students dubbed “Black BU” began to circulate a three-page statement across social media, denouncing Shapiro’s planned arrival and declaring that BU was “was not designed” for marginalized students.
“We demand to be heard, to be listened to and to finally be acknowledged as our own advocates,” the statement said. “To the administration, know that our eyes are wide open, we see you, and know that your actions do not go unwatched.”
Black BU organized to meet two hours before Shapiro’s 6 p.m. speech in the Howard Thurman Center for Common Ground Wednesday, and then assembled on Marsh Plaza, joining hundreds of other students who marched together to the Track & Tennis Center for a silent protest.
While students participating in Black BU’s silent protest stood by, BU Against Hate Speech organized several speakers and rallied young adults with chants, signs and free hot chocolate.
Nearly 20 minutes after Shapiro’s speech was scheduled to begin, around a dozen students walked out of the venue, chanting encouragement to the protesters. Several of these students made their way to the open mic session and told the crowd about what they heard on the inside.
Marco de Laforcade, a junior studying political science and chemistry, and a member of BU Against Hate Speech, said Shapiro identified a BU Against Hate Speech member by name.
“We now fear for that person’s safety,” de Laforcade said.
de Laforcade said Diana Soriano, president of the Young Americans for Freedom, called the protestors “brainwashed.”
“We are out here tonight fighting for human rights,” de Laforcade argued.
The group had set up sit-ins, protests and “Flood the Phone Line” calls to action throughout October in an attempt to halt the administration from allowing Shapiro to speak on campus.
Melissa Hurtado, a senior studying archeology, came to the microphone to vent her anger at the university for funding the speech despite student protests.
“I can’t believe they’re using my money to fund the cops that are doing nothing. Our money is doing nothing right now,” she said. “I’m really upset at BU for not listening to us. Look at how many people are out here.”
Students broke out into chants, the most popular being “Racist, sexist, anti-gay! Ben Shapiro go away!”
“I was privileged to walk out of that building with so many other people who went in there to make an impact against the fascists,” said Boston University student Jacob Levitt. “I was also disgusted to see how many MAGA heads I’m sharing a campus with.”
Levitt was one of the last open mic speakers, and his words after exiting Shapiro’s speech garnered excitement among the crowd.Organizers asked them to leave shortly after in an effort to avoid confrontation with Shapiro’s exiting crowd.
“They are resolved to make us feel unsafe, resolved to take action against our rights, resolved to take action against our identities,” Levitt said. “We’re gathering here taking action, and I’m really proud of all of us.”