In the face of a strong police presence, dozens of protesters shouted and held signs outside the University of Minnesota building where conservative commentator Ben Shapiro was speaking Monday night.

Police blocked off roads near the St. Paul Student Center and U Police Chief Matt Clark was one of about a dozen officers at the scene.

Many protesters held up signs and shouted "Ben Shapiro has got to go" or "Racist, sexist, anti gay, Ben Shapiro go away."

"We are here to support the community who feels threatened," said Jackson Bianchi with the Students for a Democratic Society.

Just before the speech was to begin at 7 p.m., police set up barricades in front of the Student Center and didn't allow anyone else to go inside. The event was sold out and it appeared ticket holders got inside without any difficulty.

Police, some wearing riot gear, were inside and outside the Student Center. A Metro Transit bus sat nearby in case of arrests.

The event promoter, Young America's Foundation, had threatened a lawsuit because it considered the 400-seat Student Center too small and too far away from the U's main Minneapolis campus. The group had wanted an 800-seat venue in Minneapolis, but the U rejected the request, saying other potential sites were unavailable or too difficult to safeguard.

Shapiro, a 34-year-old conservative icon and former editor of Breitbart News, has drawn protests around the country.

His speech at University of California, Berkeley in September drew hundreds of protesters.

Karen Zamora • 612-673-4647 Twitter: @KarenAnelZamora