In early Feburary, Milo Yiannopoulos, Breitbart senior editor and alt-right darling, was run out of the University of California at Berkeley by a group of students and members of the community who did not want him at the campus, and rightfully so. If Yiannopoulos were to come to Texas State, I hope our students would do the same.
The conversation surrounding the protests has become one of whether violence and the destruction of property is a justifiable form of action against the far right or not. While not all forms of violence are acceptable, self-defense is.
According to Yiannopoulos’ own publication, Breitbart, the goal of his countrywide college tour was to push back against sanctuary campuses that protect undocumented immigrants. Yiannopoulos was to kick off his tour at Berkeley, and prior to the event, university officials warned some students might be targeted by Yiannopoulos and put in danger.
“We are deeply concerned for all students’ safety and ability to pursue their education here at Cal beyond Milo’s speech,” the university’s office of student affairs said in a letter to the school’s College Republicans organization, hosts of the event. “Milo’s event may be used to target individuals, either in the audience or by using their personal information in a way that causes them to become human targets to serve a political agenda.”
At that point, the protest became a matter of defense, and black bloc tactics of violence became justified.
Not only is it likely a peaceful protest would not have stopped the event from happening, it would have been nearly impossible to halt without physical forcefulness. Yiannopoulos’s mind will not be changed with dialogue or love, but his heinous actions may be physically stopped—and they were. Following his stop at Berkeley, the rest of his tour was cancelled when other universities began to withdraw.
To be clear, Yiannopoulos’s first amendment was not violated. The first amendment protects individuals from government retaliation for their speech, but it does not protect them from ordinary citizens shutting down events—and that is the way that it should be.
It would be wrong to expect, or even hope, for our government to infringe on any kind of speech. Rather, it is up to us to push this rhetoric back into the shadows and make it socially unacceptable and dangerous to amplify white-supremacist ideas. The “tolerant left” has never been, or claimed to be, tolerant of bigoted individuals putting people in danger of being deported. In fact, I would ask anyone who claims the label of a “leftist” and finds tolerance for these actions to resign that label altogether.
Luckily, Yiannopoulos’ tour and book deal has been cancelled due to a released video of him condoning pedophilia, and we do not have to worry about his presence on our campus. Yiannopoulos had to be shut down in order to protect the students he was putting in danger, and I hope we as a university care enough about each other to do the same if needed.
– May Olvera is a journalism junior