Clarification: About 750 supporters and 25 protestors were at the University Auditorium

At the heart of a gathering drawn together by Ben Shapiro’s appearance at UF, protesters and supporters deliberated the freedom of speech while awaiting the controversial conservative speaker.

The group of about 750 supporters and 25 protesters was drawn to the University Auditorium on Monday night before the editor-in-chief of The Daily Wire, a right-wing media outlet, answered questions about rape culture, healthcare and fellow conservative Tomi Lahren.

Shapiro also mentioned an incident in 2015 in which he misgendered a transgender reporter. Shapiro was paid $20,000 to speak — $15,000 covered by Accent Speakers Bureau and the remaining $5,000 covered by Young Americans for Freedom, according to Alligator archives.

Hours before Shapiro spoke, David Glasser, 15, drove up with his mother and her boyfriend from Tampa to be one of the first people in line. Glasser said he admires Shapiro because like Glasser, he is both Jewish and conservative.

“I really wanted to hear the thug speak,” Glasser said. “I think a lot of him reminds me of when I would be older.”

But as some waited to hear Shapiro speak, others organized in protest.

Nate Quinn, a UF psychology freshman, started organizing the protest Wednesday when he learned Shapiro was coming. One of Shapiro’s well-known beliefs is about transgenderism and how he said it is a mental illness.

“A lot of people believe his rhetoric about trans people,” Quinn, a 19-year-old trans man, said. “It’s harmful.”

The group of protesters, carrying signs protesting Islamophobia and the treatment of Palestinians, stood by themselves, as some Shapiro supporters in line tried to ask questions. One supporter tried to tape a police tape around the area the protesters were occupying while others yelled, “safe space.”

At 7 p.m., Shapiro began his speech by thanking the crowd for attending “despite the idiot protestors outside.” He criticized an op-ed in the Alligator that was against him speaking.

“Apparently, the premise here is that I make people feel unsafe,” Shapiro said. “I have one question, have you seen me?” gesturing to his small stature.

During the brief talk, followed by a Q&A, Shapiro spoke about the philosophy of intersectionality, which he said suggests liberals value people who identify with minority identities. He also argued pro-life and that women aren’t victimized in the U.S.

He also expanded on how people use emotions to counter facts, but that can be detrimental.

“When we decide the facts can be cast out in favor of your emotions, we are creating a politics that cannot work in a free nation,” Shapiro said.

Jacob Armstrong, a 19-year-old UF music education sophomore, said he thought Shapiro was well spoken.

“I feel like anybody who would protest him hasn’t heard him speak,” he said. “People are trying to label him as things without hearing his arguments first.”

Correction: This article has been updated with the correct spelling of David Glasser's name.

Clarification: This article has been updated to include that about 25 people protested Shapiro's appearance. 

Contact Paige Fry at pfry@alligator.org and follow her on Twitter at @paigexfry

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