Conservative Commentator Loses Free-Speech Lawsuit Against UMN

Ben Shapiro’s lawsuit against the University of Minnesota (UMN) has been thrown out by a judge who found that the school’s move of his speech to a more rural campus was motivated by safety concerns, not politics.

The conservative speaker, along with two student groups, sued several UMN officials who helped plan the logistics of Shapiro’s 2018 speech.

Shapiro alleged that these officials discriminated against his viewpoint by moving his event to a ballroom on the St. Paul campus that holds 450 people, reports TwinCities.com. The venue that was provided by the university was a 15-minute shuttle ride from the main campus, reports CityPages.com.

The judge ruled, however, that UMN had legitimate security concerns over Shapiro’s speech. U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson cited the fact that previous presentations by the conservative speaker at other universities, including those at UC Berkeley and the University of Wisconsin, had attracted hundreds of protestors. The judge ruled the solution UMN provided was a “content-neutral place restriction in furtherance of public safety.”

In court documents, UMN said it chose the St. Paul site rather than the Willey site because Willey had skyway access that could make it harder to manage protestors, reports CityPages.com.

The student leader of the group that sponsored Shapiro’s event agreed to the venue selection and did not let UMN know the group didn’t want the speech to be in St. Paul. UMN only found out about Shapiro’s and his conservative sponsors’ dissatisfaction with the venue after the event sold out.

The school spent about $15,000 on security.

At this summer’s Campus Safety Online Summit, UC Berkeley Police Chief Margot Bennett discussed the valuable lessons her department learned from the high-profile protests and demonstrations her campus has experienced and the subsequent policies that were developed for similar future events. Read the article about lessons her department has learned.

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