The Aftermath: Milo Yiannopoulos Ensues Protests At Rutgers University
By: Julie Tsirkin
NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ- On Tuesday, February 9th, Milo Yiannopoulos, a viral gay blogger from Britain, made a controversial stop on his “Dirty Faggot” tour at Rutgers University, where hundreds of attendees awaited his opinions on free speech and criticisms of political correctness on college campuses. However, what was supposed to be an opinion-piece and Q&A from conservative journalist, quickly spiraled out of control due to numerous protestor groups in the audience.
Interrupting Yiannopoulos’s every word, protests arose from groups such as RU Speaks Out, Black Lives Matter, and other progressive and feminist rights groups on campus.
Numerous news stations and independent student journalists were present at the event, with practically every other audience member documenting the talk using their smart phones. The stories and videos broke out all over the internet, going viral, and causing extreme backlash for the Rutgers community.
What had occurred during Yiannopoulous’s visit was long-awaited, with protest groups threatening his arrival during the preceding days. There were protestors screaming and standing on chairs, women and men verbally attacking one another of all races and political views, and chaos in the crowd that prevented any form of civil discussion.
After a group of women stood on a chair and yelled, “This man spawns hatred,” smearing themselves with fake blood, Yiannopoulous retaliated, “As a professional attention seeker, sometimes it helps to listen first so you can respond more intelligently.” When an attendee issued a comment in support of Yiannopoulous’s statements, protesters immediately counterattacked. Shortly after the speech had concluded,
protestors flooded the streets, wiping fake blood on building doors and using verbal aggression to fight supporters.
Chancellor Richard L. Edwards sent out a campus-wide email on the topic of freedom of expression, inclusion, and civility following Yiannopoulos’s talk. “The wide variety of programming at Rutgers highlights the fact that not all of our students share the same background, beliefs, opinions, interests, or lifestyles. This is the very diversity we celebrate and cherish.”
However, Edwards states that while the University encourages diverse opinions and beliefs, those beliefs should be executed with respect, on both sides. “And as part of that celebration, we strongly support the right of free speech – even the right to express views that are abhorrent to
others – but expect our students to engage in civil discussion on important issues and to treat each other with respect.”
In the coming weeks following the protest, some changes were presented by the administration to the Rutgers community, including an increase in operating budgets to each of the cultural centers, the establishment of an inter-faith center, institutional funding to the Student Access and Educational Equity subdivision, and more. These changes were put into place in order to advance inclusion in our community.
Regardless of this fact, many student-run protest groups still felt that the university has not shown support to their issues. Kayla Boulware, the executive campaign manager of Reclaim Revolution, an organization formed to discuss the colonial legacy of the University, the corporization of higher education, and the history of student activism at the University, displays her distaste with Edwards’ email.
“We have been disappointed with the University administration’s response to the events of the ninth. Rutgers University claims to be in the forefront of addressing systemic issues like women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, and diversity, yet they have not shown support students for advocating for these issues and have been slow to respond to reports of rape and death threats.”
Boulware believes that while Edwards criticized the disrespectful actions of the protestors during the event, he failed to take a stand against the homophobic, racist, and misogynist speech that Yiannopoulos presented.
Matthew Boyer, a member of Young Americans for Liberty and an organizer of the talk, feels that although our university is prominently progressive, there needs to be room for a difference of opinion.
“Even if a speech is extremely provocative or goes against the popular sway, there is still value to that speech and it should be presented. I think its extremely important to hear people speak, even if you don’t agree with them.”
Boyer, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, believes that there is a hypocrisy in social justice movements, whose demonstrators want the freedom to protest racial inequality, but will insult opposing views – especially those of a different creed.