The Orange County campus of Cal State University Fullerton was calm Wednesday after at least eight people were arrested as firebrand conservative Milo Yiannopoulos was giving a speech.
Educators and police had been bracing for protests and possibly worse as the former tech editor for Breibart.com, who has drawn criticism over his relations with white supremacist groups in the alt-right movement as well as comments about feminism and Islam, was due to speak at 6 p.m. at the Titan Student Union. He was invited to speak by the campus College Republicans student group.
Capt. Scot Willey of the CSUF Police Department said that shortly before the speech began, a group of about 200 protesters had gathered outside a fence set up to add a layer of security to the event. A person who may not have been sympathetic to the protesters’ message was moving through the group when tensions flared, words were exchanged and someone among the demonstrators used pepper spray, Willey said.
One female refused treatment and eight to 10 people, all thought to be protesters, were arrested, according to reports from the scene. Willey did not know what possible charges they would face.
“We invited Milo because he’s obviously a very provocative speaker who sheds light and brings attention to various (conservative) issues,” said Brooke Paz, an event coordinator for the group.
The organization feels it is overshadowed by progressive groups on campus and wanted someone who could make a big splash, Paz said.
“We feel left out of the campus conversation with all the liberal groups and liberal professors who have marginalized conservative students,” Paz said, adding that she and others feel they are often “talked down to” by some professors. Some report having their grades reduced because of their political orientation, she said.
Buzzfeed reported recently that Yiannopoulos consulted with white supremacist leaders on an essay defining the alt-right movement as part of an effort to mainstream bigoted philosophies.
Paz said she was unfazed by that report, saying Buzzfeed has a penchant for “outrageous claims” and that it was more likely Yiannopoulos as an editor of Breitbart was doing what any journalist would do.
“I think that personally he was trying to get the perspective of different groups and that’s within his journalistic wheelhouse,” Paz said.
Paz said many students of varying political stripes approached her and tolos, they support his free speech rights.
“I’m finding a lot of students don’t really care,” Paz said. “They don’t know who he is and are just excited for Halloween.”
Activist group Students for Quality Education had a “Unity Block Party” planned for the afternoon and a rally a half-hour before Yiannopoulos took the stage. It was not immediately clear if anyone in the group was arrested.
Prior to his speech Yiannopoulos said he understood the fuss but discouraged any violence.
“I don’t blame the poor misguided souls who rock up to protest a gay guy with the wrong opinions,” he said in an email to City News Service.
“That’s assuming they’ve even read my stuff. Actually, I encourage protests because more speech is always better than less — just leave the nunchucks and baseball bats at home, guys.”
Protesters are chanting in front of the TSU before the #MiloYiannopoulos event at #CSUF. pic.twitter.com/VodtGnaZYF
— Daily Titan (@thedailytitan) October 31, 2017
–City News Service