Madison, WI – On November 6, nearly 80 students and community members gathered outside Shannon Hall on the University of Wisconsin (UW) campus to protest the reactionary Ben Shapiro’s visit. The focus of the protest was squarely on Palestine and on trans rights, both issues which Shapiro has disgusting views on and both topics which the university and the Wisconsin state government have a checkered record on.
The crowd chanted “Free, free Palestine” and “When trans rights are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back!” Several speeches from the host organizations were sprinkled in between the chants. A key point in the speech made by Zade Dallman of the Trans Resistance Action Committee was to point of the hypocrisy of UW administration.
“Tell me, what is welcoming about letting someone who has openly and proudly supported the genocide of the Palestinian people? What is inclusive about a campus community that allows someone who actively aims to invalidate and attack the trans community?” Dallman queried. “What kind of message is the university sending when they allow someone with such hateful views to speak and spread his bigotry which in turn directly contributes to the formation of discriminatory laws and bans that inflict further harm onto already vulnerable communities, as well as also encouraging physical violence against them?”
Dallman concluded, “This is our city, our campus, and our community and we are saying no to their hate! We are strong, we are resilient, and like we have always done, we will persevere. Their hate may burn hot but it burns quick. They will eventually fade away and when that happens, we will still be here, standing strong and standing together ready to replace them.”
While the rally was going on outside, a contingent of students representing both Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at UW and the UW-Milwaukee branch of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), in addition to a few community members, infiltrated the event. While Shapiro spoke, they held up their hands which were painted red to represent the Palestinian blood on the hands of Shapiro and the UW administration.
“Providing a platform to a racist like Ben Shapiro to spread hatred and bigotry directly contributes to a rise in things like homophobia, transphobia and Islamophobia,” said Patricia Fish of UWM SDS, one of the students who went inside the event, in comments made afterward. “And those ideas lead people to take violent actions, such as we’ve seen with the many mass shootings which target trans and other queer people and also the brutal stabbing death of the baby Palestinian boy in Illinois. UW should be ashamed!”
UW Dean of Students Christina Olstad told the crowd at the start of the speaking event that anyone who attempted to disrupt the racist Shapiro from speaking would be dealt with “swiftly and severely.” As a result, the nearly 20 protesters were constantly threatened with arrest throughout the speaking engagement despite simply standing with their hands raised. When the speaking concluded, the protesters began chanting as they filed out of the space.
The rally outside was organized by the UW Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA) and co-hosted by the Trans Resistance Action Committee (TRAC). A follow-up campus action for Palestine is being planned for November 9 in alignment with the National Day of Action being hosted by Students for Justice in Palestine and others.