“The term ‘free speech’ gets used a lot to endorse hate speech,” said Darin Garber, a CU graduate student who attended the protest outside the Milo Yiannopoulos talk at CU Boulder Wednesday evening.
Garber held a sign that read “HATE SPEECH ≠ FREE SPEECH,” a view shared by many protesters who felt that the university should distinguish between the two concepts. They aimed to refute the idea that the campus should hear Yiannopoulos on free speech grounds, a justification given by CU administration for holding the event.
“There are some lines that have been crossed; a lot of hateful rhetoric has been said under the guise of free speech,” Garber said.
Hate speech is protected as free speech under the First Amendment, but students argue the university should not host a speaker like Yiannopoulos. Yiannopoulos has, in 2016, been uninvited from multiple universities on grounds of security concerns and creating a hostile environment.
Yiannopoulos’s visit has caused controversy on the Boulder campus for the past two months. His event sparked three petitions and a letter from the faculty to Chancellor Philip DiStefano. Yiannopoulos has written and edited for Breitbart News, a conservative media outlet. During his time there, he was linked to the alt-right movement. The alt-right has been described as a mix of racism, white nationalism and populism, according to the Associated Press. Yiannopoulos was also banned from Twitter in July for inciting remarks about actor Leslie Jones.
Some of the many chants heard at the rally included “Love trumps hate,” “Trans lives matter” and “No hate, no fear, Milo is not welcome here,” as well as variations of chants heard at the Women’s Marches this past weekend.
Elizabeth, a CU Ph.D student, participated in the protest as part of a group of science students who held signs that read “Mathematicians Against Division” and “We [heart sign] Integration.” The group gathered significant attention from other protesters and passers-by with their use of kazoos and sign wordplay.
“I feel the need to keep campus safe as a teacher and student,” she said. “It’s just so toxic.”
Within the mostly student-led crowd were several members of the Boulder community, who also came to voice their opinions on the event. Adding to the group were some CU alumni and Colorado residents who came from outside of of Boulder, as well as some protesters from organized groups.
“We’re brothers and sisters and need to get to know each other and not see each other as monsters,” said the Rev. Roger Wolsey, a pastor at Wesley Chapel. He hoped to use his sign, which read “Milo, God Loves You Just As You Are. Drop The Hate, It’s Time To Love,” as a way to “soften the hearts” of the speaker’s supporters.
“It’s great to see people getting organized,” said Sally Barrett-Page, a member of Organizing for Action Boulder, on the turnout at the rally. “I’ve been a feminist activist for 45 years. It’s great to see millennials getting involved.”
In the hours before the highly debated Yiannopolous visit, students, faculty and community members joined in protest to express their solidarity with groups that they say have been denigrated by the speaker and voice their concerns toward those defending the visit based on free speech ideals.
Not all the protesters that night were as peaceful as these four. Altercations occurred between the pro-Trump and anti-Trump sides, and three were detained and ticketed, according to the Daily Camera. There were also reports of “Make America Great Again” hats being stolen and burned. Phones were stolen and broken as well.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Heidi Harris at firstname.lastname@example.org.