In a time where political polarization has become a distinct characteristic of the 21st century, the scheduled appearance of conservative commentator Milo Yiannopoulos has warranted extensive security measures at Cal State Fullerton for Tuesday’s appearance.
Yiannopoulos is known as a gay conservative media personality, who is associated with the alt-right movement and other organizations who advocate white supremacy. As a part of his “Troll Academy” tour, Yiannopoulos will be speaking on Oct. 31 about “the evils of Islam,” free speech and defending western values.
“I can’t speak to why [Halloween] was chosen, and it could just be a coincidence,” said Jeff Cook, chief communications officer at Fullerton. “But I have feeling there’s a reason for it.”
In early October, Buzzfeednews published email chains that revealed evidence of Yiannopoulos’ collaboration and connection to white supremacists during his time as a senior editor at Breitbart News. Prior to the leak, he resigned from the online news outlet after stating that sexual contact between adult men and 13-year-old boys can be “perfectly consensual.”
“To characterize the thoughts of the entire student body is something I can’t do, but we certainly recognize that Mr. Yiannopoulos is a controversial figure,” Cook said. “There are probably any number of students who find the things he says objectionable.”
The controversial figure continues to puzzle audiences around the world with his contradictory opposition to gay rights, and his firm rejection of the label “alt-right.”
According to Cook, the university’s College Republicans invited Yiannopoulos on campus for the ticketed event, inciting some apprehension from the student body, while others seemed excited for his arrival.
“We have been working since summer trying to fight against the extreme right,” Liz Sanchez told Cal State Long Beach Associated Students Inc during a September meeting. “We have been working so hard to fight against Milo Yiannopoulos and all that he represents.”
According to the Fullerton website, security measures will be taking place in the form of screenings with metal detectors at the event, road and walkway closures and the closure of nine different buildings on campus. Cook said that security costs are not known at this time.
“We are refraining from discussing projected costs or details of our safety planning as to not diminish the effectiveness of the efforts underway,” Cook said.
According to the Orange County Register, Acacia Elementary school will be closing early the day of the event because of the close proximity to the university. The early closure is an attempt to avoid any potential disturbances.
“That was not at the recommendation of the university and it also wasn’t at the recommendation of the police,” Cook said. “But certainly that’s not our call to make, and we’re respectful of the decision that they made.”
According to Keith Caires, Long Beach University Police Department sergeant, their officers will be joining Fullerton’s to increase security.
“Mutual aid is a very common thing,” Caires said. “University police officers have special training relating to campus issues, so I’d much rather have our guys over there than city police officers.”
On the day of the speech, there will be another student sponsored event called “unity block party,” which is meant to celebrate diversity and perspectives that differ from the controversial speaker later that day.
“If that happened here, I would get away from it,” said Gabriella Torez-Ortega, a freshman studying chemistry. “It would make me feel uncomfortable in general.” I don’t think it’s a good idea, you shouldn’t say something that would hurt someone else.”
Others have expressed that free speech should still be allowed on campus, even if it stirs controversy.
“I believe it is a good idea to get both perspectives,” said Aziza Gomez, a freshman studying music. “Maybe if we hear him out, he would listen to us too and then we would actually get somewhere.”