Student groups at universities across the country that planned to host a conservative speaker have become hesitant to move forward with their events because of potential threats to student safety.
Republican groups at several campuses, including UCLA, UC Berkeley and UC Davis, invited controversial Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos to speak at their campuses to bring a conservative voice to otherwise liberal colleges.
Bruin Republicans said in a statement Monday night Yiannopoulos cancelled his scheduled appearance at UCLA because the group could not meet his requirements. The group declined to specify what Yiannopoulos’ requirements were, but said they were concerned about student safety because recent protests have turned violent.
A 32-year-old man was shot at the University of Washington during a protest Friday outside the hall where Yiannopoulos was scheduled to speak that night. The shooter claimed he fired his gun in self-defense, though the victim’s friends dispute his claim.
When Yiannopoulos started his speaking tour in late 2016, students at universities across the country took issue with his rhetoric, which often featured racist, transphobic and anti-Semitic remarks.
[Last Yiannopolous visit: Student groups to hold events discussing feminist ideals]
Yiannopoulos was permanently banned on Twitter after he called on his followers to harass actress Leslie Jones. He has also said he enjoys laughing about topics such as AIDS, ISIS and rape.
Protesters sought to prevent Yiannopoulos from speaking by any means necessary. Most student protesters at universities Yiannopoulos has visited have tried to physically but nonviolently block him from entering his venues.
Students at UC Davis blocked the entrance to a scheduled appearance by Yiannopoulos and former pharmaceutical executive Martin Shkreli on Jan. 13. Shkreli and his company, Turing Pharmaceuticals, faced national criticism after raising the price of a lifesaving drug from $13 to $750 a pill.
The Davis College Republicans cancelled the event after university police told them protesters had weapons, said the group’s Executive Director Andrew Mendoza.
Mendoza, a first-year political science student, added those claims turned out to be false, but said he thinks the university did not implement sufficient security measures.
For example, the university provided plastic barriers, which protesters could easily move, instead of heavier metal barriers, Mendoza said. He also said he thinks the university should have had more police present to act as a human barricade between protesters and eventgoers.
According to a statement from UC Davis, there were no broken windows or other property damage during the protest, contrary to some news reports, and police arrested one person.
A Yiannopoulos event scheduled for Jan. 17 at UC Santa Barbara was also cancelled because the student group hosting could not meet Yiannopoulos’ requirements, the Daily Nexus reported.
Some free-speech activists, conservatives and campus administrators have defended Yiannopoulos’ right to speak, however distasteful people believe his views or speech might be. Ralph J. Hexter, interim chancellor of UC Davis, said in a statement after the event cancellation he was disappointed the protests prevented Yiannopoulos from speaking.
“Our community is founded on principles of respect for all views, even those that we personally find repellent,” Hexter said. “As I have stated repeatedly, a university is at its best when it listens to and critically engages opposing views, especially ones that many of us find upsetting or even offensive.”
Some universities, including Minnesota State University, the University of Maryland and UC Berkeley, required student group hosts to raise sizable security fees. University officials asked Berkeley College Republicans to pay up to $10,000 to host Yiannopoulos, the Daily Californian reported.
Yiannopoulos is scheduled to speak at UC Berkeley on Feb. 1 after they paid the fee.