Freedom of Speech vs. violence on university campuses

Milo Yiannopoulos speaking at an University as a part of his "The Dangerous Faggot" Tour

By Arturo Brooks |Staff Writer|

The riots at University of California, Berkeley earlier this month have brought forth concerns on college campuses throughout the U.S. in regards to federal funding, campus security, and freedom of speech.

Milo Yiannopoulos was scheduled to speak on Feb. 1 at UC Berkeley, until a riot broke out and caused his event to be canceled.

Yiannopoulos is infamous for speaking against feminism, the black lives matter movement, extremist leftists, and extremist LGBT members, despite Yiannopoulos himself being a gay, Jewish immigrant who claims he “only dates black guys.”

A peaceful protest was planned to denounce the Republican speaker. Not only by students and staff, but also the Berkeley city community.

As Yiannopoulos was getting ready for his speech in the dressing room, chaos broke out in the middle of the protest.

The peaceful protesting soon turned violent, hijacked by rioters. They were hurling roman candles, targeting police with rocks, shooting fireworks, and even going as far as starting fires and throwing the steel barriers.

Yiannopoulos was brought to the fifth floor of the building, until they began to worry the building would be stormed. For his safety, Yiannopoulos was given a bullet proof vest and evacuated to an unknown location.

Yiannopoulos gave a statement on a live feed via Facebook, where he let his supporters know that he was safe.

At 3 a.m. President Trump released a statement on Twitter.

“If U.C. Berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view – NO FEDERAL FUNDS?”

This has brought up the speculation of whether or not the labeled “UC Berkeley riot” was an attack on freedom of speech.

However, this isn’t the first time a college institution had an incident like this with Yiannopoulos as their guest speaker.

University of Washington rallied a peaceful protest that went without incident until 7 p.m., when the protesters began to become increasingly violent and the event soon turned into a riot.

They began hurling bricks and other objects, such as fireworks and paint at police officers working the event.

A protester was shot as both sides clashed outside from the left and right.

Yiannopoulos stopped his speech to go check on the situation. After, he returned to the podium to continue his speech.

“If we don’t continue, they have won,” stated Yiannopoulos.

After the event had ended, police still could not allow anyone to leave due to the amount of danger and a gunman at large. Police then escorted all attendees through an underground parking garage.

Additionally, University of California, Davis had a very similar incident.

Students had called for the university to cancel Yiannopoulos’s event due to the fact that they don’t agree with his speeches.

The Interim Chancellor Ralph J. Hexter of UC Davis stated, “We affirm the right of our students — in this instance, the Davis College Republicans — to invite speakers to our campus.”

Protesters began to block the venue doors to not allow anyone to attend.

Around 7 p.m. UC Davis made the call to cancel the event due to the inability to guarantee safety of the attendees.

Shortly after, the protesters began to turn into rioters, breaking down barricades, and even attacking Yiannopoulos’s video producer.

All these protesters and rioters had one thing in common: blocking someone’s right to speak freely. Not only through violence, but by blocking the venue.

The Constitution states “To use certain offensive words and phrases to convey political messages.” Cohen v. California, 403 U.S. 15 (1971), according to

This allows Yiannopoulos the right to speak about political messages and his beliefs, regardless of how controversial his opinion may seem.

As a result of these events, many questions and concerns have to come to light.

Some examples would be whether schools should be defunded like how President Trump has suggested, whether schools should be held accountable of actions of students and staff involved in violent protest, and should a greater presence of security be guaranteed for controversial speakers and events.

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