Milo Yiannopoulos spoke at CU Boulder Wednesday, one of many stops included on his college tour. His visit has been criticized by many students and faculty members, over 2,200 of which signed two online petitions as of Tuesday to uninvite him from campus.
Yiannopoulos was invited by the CU College Republicans and the CU chapter of Turning Point USA, a conservative political activist group. In response to recent controversies surrounding the Yiannopoulos event, two representatives from the group — students Vice President Benjamin Hoban and Treasurer David Quesinberry — weighed in before the event on the significance of the visit. CU College Republicans did not respond for comment.
“We thought all speakers need to be given a platform to speak,” Quesinberry said on why the speaker was invited. “A diversity of ideas need to be present in college.”
This view was echoed by campus administration as the primary reason for allowing Yiannopoulos to visit, despite arguments from critics that the speaker’s inflammatory speech would promote exclusivity rather than foster the inclusive environment that the university claims to uphold.
“We don’t support or defend anything Milo says,” Quesinberry said. “We are not here to say we are totally supportive of his views. We are exercising our free speech by giving him a platform.”
“I don’t think hate speech is a real thing. It’s still free speech. Just because you don’t like something someone said, it doesn’t mean it isn’t protected by the First Amendment,” Quesinberry said. Hate speech is protected by the First Amendment. Yiannopoulos has, in 2016, been uninvited from multiple universities on grounds of security concerns and creating a hostile environment.
Hoban said his group supports the right to protest, as it is itself an act of free speech, a principle for which the group advocates. As for Turning Point USA’s goals for the visit, Hoban said its top priority is to make sure people do not get hurt.
“We look forward to the event and hope that everything remains peaceful, civil, and safe,” he said. The event itself remained peaceful, but scuffles between protesters and counter-protesters outside went from contentious to violent at times.
Contact CU Independent News Reporter Heidi Harris at firstname.lastname@example.org.