Within a matter of minutes, the talk descended into chaos. However, there is much more to the story of Milo Yiannopoulos trying to speak at DePaul University than even the livestreams tell.
Prior to the event, DePaul College Republicans had spent weeks jumping through every administrative hurdle imaginable to put on this event.
For those who haven’t heard of him, Milo Yiannopoulos (whose Twitter handle is Nero) is the self-proclaimed “ most fabulous supervillain on the internet,” and he has been on a tour of college campuses. I don’t agree with everything that he says, but I was interested in hearing what he had to say in person, unfiltered, as opposed to how it would be reported in the media. Apparently that was too much to ask for.
Even before we sat down in our seats, we already had a sense of what was going to happen. Leading up to the event, several of us walked around campus waving signs to ensure that people would know where the event was being held. We came across the protest that was planned, and my cousin walked to the outskirts of the protest to make sure that they all knew where to go, in case they wanted to actually hear what Milo had come to say.
Within minutes, a DePaul administrator and DePaul police came up and told him that he would need to leave the area, even though he was merely standing there quietly with a sign. These same administrators would later show a complete lack of will when it came to removing the protesters who shut the event down.
We eventually got back to where the talk was being held and settled into our seats. Before the talk started, several protesters went on stage and sat in the chair that Milo would be sitting in. They were asked to leave (they would later be back, and would not leave when told to do so). Milo was a little bit late to the event because he was getting his hair done. Before the talk had even begun, a student read a statement that DePaul required be read, that stated that these views don’t represent what DePaul stands for. It is of course reasonable for a university not to agree with every speaker on their campus, but their subsequent actions were inexcusable.
Once the event started, it proceeded normally for a few minutes before the chaos commenced. All of a sudden, a whistle emanated from the aisle and someone jumped on stage. The sight was so comical that I originally thought it was an act to illustrate how ridiculous some protesters are, but this was entirely real. However, he was joined by a cohort that settled at the foot of the stage and refused to leave (he also had his friend on stage with him, and the two of them paced back and forth, and ultimately threatened Milo with violence, but nothing happened).
After a while, it became clear that the protesters were not going to leave. However, Milo decided to periodically continue speaking, and a lot of members of the audience went on stage to get photos with him.
At one point, an administrator announced that everyone on the stage was going to be arrested, and the protesters didn’t move. And yet…nothing. This same administrator was more forceful with an old man who kept telling him to arrest them, telling him repeatedly to sit back down. At one point, the same administrator and DePaul police officers that had removed my cousin for standing on the Quad with a sign showed up, but this time they did nothing. One of the protesters confronted the administrators and asked them how it was possible for DePaul to pay for such an event, and they responded that they had not paid a cent for it, after which he sat back down.
This is all it takes to shut an event down at DePaul.
However, the event was not free. DePaul College Republicans had to raise thousands of dollars, not for a fee for Milo, but for the security administrators demanded…who stood there and did nothing while Milo was threatened.
After sitting for a while, Milo finally had enough and went to the audience to speak from the center of the room. Shortly after this, when it was apparent that he would not be allowed to speak, he decided to be an activist as well and lead the crowd to the office of the DePaul President. However, it turned out that the president was abroad, and the group began to march around campus. As we exited the space for the event, we saw a row of Chicago police officers (who were apparently told to stand down by DePaul authorities) who did nothing. Upon leaving, we were surrounded by two rows of protesters, so everyone had to walk through a sea of them.
At this point, Milo led the crowd who had come to listen to him, as well as the crowd that had come to protest him around campus for a while, before he got in a car and left. During the walk, Milo made several attempts to speak to the crowd, but he was shouted down every time, so he gave up at a certain point.
After the dust had settled, the President of DePaul apologized for the event being shut down, but many weren’t satisfied, because his apology did not mention whether College Republicans would be reimbursed for the cost of the security that didn’t do its job, and for “appl[ying] moral equivalence to supporters and protesters of Yiannopoulos event.”
I am sure that most people are wondering about who got arrested in the aftermath of this incident. The police did arrest someone, however the one person they arrested was a journalist who had been given permission to record the event beforehand.
For further context, consider that before Milo spoke, a study had actually been taken into custody by the Chicago Police Department for chalk graffiti, yet as far as I can tell, the students who shut this event down have yet to receive even the slightest admonishment.
Additionally, potential donors to DePaul have been far from pleased with this incident.
DePaul is far from alone in terms of its hostility to allowing dissenting views to be heard on campus. Even at the University of Chicago, which is known for its commitment to free speech, a resolution I proposed earlier this quarter that condemned protesters who shut down two events on our campus (that had the support of over 50 faculty members) was tabled indefinitely by the General Assembly of our Student Government. My guess is that Milo was going to address how college students are more eager to shut down those who disagree with them than they are to listen to what they have to say. However, the protesters obviously proved his point in a way nothing he said ever could have done.