STORRS – The University of Connecticut ramped up security and did not take any chances Wednesday night for a campus showdown between two rival speakers from opposing political parties.
The hope was to not end like the last event with Lucian Wintrich where his speech sparked violence and ended in arrests.
For Wednesday night, there was a big difference because Nathan Robinson, a liberal speaker was also invited by the UConn Democrats. There was a bigger turnout for Republican speaker, Ben Shapiro but the crowd was very tame and cordial, but security was still on high alert at all times.
One hour before the event began for Shapiro at the Rome Commons Ballroom, a long line of anxious students formed outside and as soon as doors opened at 6:15 p.m., close to 500 people filled the room and tickets were sold out immediately.
Everyone got up from their seats and cheered as Shapiro walked to the podium and just seconds into his speech, his humor got the crowd laughing.
He immediately made it a point he would welcome differing opinions and encourages discussions to be held. He talked about the difference between “the truth” and a “person’s truth” – he believed the left gets confused with what is a fact versus what a person is feeling.
“I think one of the things that’s happened in our politics is people have been told that they should blame outside forces for whatever failures they’re experiencing,” said Shapiro.
Ashley Zecca, a high school senior who drove all the way from Massachusetts to see Shapiro said she has admired his talks for a long time.
“People often get offended by the truth and the facts in our society and the truth is that facts don’t hurt you, it’s your own reaction,” said Zecca.
Meanwhile, Robinson held his own event at the Thomas Dodd Research Center. There was a smaller turnout there but he stood strong on calling Shapiro out on his comments and called them racist.
“He said things that are just extremely inarguably racist about Arabs. He said they enjoy blowing things up and they like living in sewage, that they value murder,” said Robinson.
The Vice President of the UConn College Democrats said hearing comments from the right frustrates her and that is why she and others invited Robinson.
“You obviously don’t want to feed into that rhetoric because it’s not valuable of your time. It’s not of the stature that this University should hold,” said Stephanie Goebel, Vice President of the UConn Democrats.
There were also no protestors outside this time, so security was able to shuffle everyone out safely.