Violence that led to a canceled speech at the University of California-Berkeley and a presidential threat over free speech had a precursor at Michigan State University. In East Lansing, there was no violence and no threat.
The speaker was Breitbart News Senior Editor Milo Yiannopoulos. The Dec. 7 event at Michigan State was billed as a stop on his “Dangerous Faggot Tour,” which took him to other campuses and UC-Berkeley.
The MSU Spartans for Free Speech organization said the event was meant to “highlight the impact that politically-correct culture has on society as a whole, especially college campuses,” said Spartans for Free Speech. “But it became something more as the event drew closer.”
An anonymous representative of Spartans for free speech said, between the time of the announcement of his visit and the actual event, the group was presented with many challenges from administration and from their fellow Spartans — but this only motivated them further.
“The event’s purpose was no longer to just to hear Milo speak, but to stand against those who tried to bully and shame us out of hosting the event,” said a representative of Spartans for Free Speech, in an email. “It became less about Milo and more about the principle; we believe that one doesn’t have to agree with every word to hear someone speak.”
Similar to his previous stops, while Milo had a crowd of supporters, he was also greeted by many disapproving protesters, who held signs showing their objection.
According to RJ Wolcott of the Lansing State Journal, Yiannopoulos himself held up a sign that read “Milo sucks,” and threw into the crowd.
Seven protesters were reportedly arrested after blockading the entrance to the event, and resisting and obstructing justice, according to a letter posted to the State News by the Spartans for Free Speech.
Capt. Doug Monette of the MSUPD said the incident is still an open investigation and that he could not provide any more information.
Yiannopoulos was set to visit University of California, Berkeley on Feb. 1, but, due to violent protests on campus, the university announced on Twitter that the event was cancelled.
In response to the events at Berkeley, President Trump tweeted, “If U.C. Berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view – NO FEDERAL FUNDS.”
Jacob T. Levy, Tomlinson Professor of Political Theory at McGill University spoke out against Yiannopoulos Feb. 2 on his Facebook page.
“I do wish campus conservative groups would stop enabling MY’s loathsome, self-enriching scam. Stop inviting him; he adds nothing to debate. He’s trying to provoke these responses; they benefit him, but not the students,” said Levy. “But he’s only a hateful con artist. Violent rioters successfully suppressing speech are a mortal threat to university values. The “antifa”/ “punch a Nazi” principles leads us here, to a place that is deeply dangerous and utterly contrary to university life.”