By Val Bauer
A man was shot and wounded on Friday, Jan. 20 during protests outside a speech given by Milo Yiannopoulous at the University of Washington (UW) Seattle campus. The protests were both directed toward Yiannopoulos and Donald Trump, as the speech took place on Inauguration Day.
Yiannopoulos, a controversial alt-right writer for Breitbart News Network, was invited to speak at UW by student-run club University of Washington College Republicans (UWCR), which was met with resistance from members of the UW community. Community members created a change.org petition “Ban Milo Yiannopoulos’ hate speech from coming to the University of Washington,” which garnered 4,267 supporters.
According to Mike Carter and Steve Miletich of The Seattle Times, the shooter, who is not being named, surrendered to the University of Washington Police Department (UWPD) with his wife hours after the shooting. The man was “questioned and released” after claiming to have shot in “self-defense.”
The shooter, Carter and Miletich reported, “is a supporter of Trump, Yiannopoulos and the National Rifle Association,” according to his Facebook page.
According to a Jan. 22 press release by the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW)’s General Defense Committee (GDC), a self-proclaimed “anti-racist and anti-facist organization” of which the victim was a member of, the “34-year-old man from Seattle…has been a long-time anti-racist and anti-facist activist.”
The petition calls Yiannopoulos a “renown bigot and misogynist,” whose speech would violate the university’s code against “discriminatory harassment.” The petition urges UW President Ana Mari Cauce to “ban [Yiannopoulos] from speaking on campus and release a public statement explaining why this sort of hate speech will not be tolerated.”
Another petition was created by UWCR, Students for Trump, and Washington College Republican Federation in response: “Allow Milo Yiannopoulos to Speak at the University of Washington.” The petition urges Cauce to “stand up for student rights and a tolerance of a wide array [of] ideologies and beliefs,” with 731 supporters, by allowing Yiannopoulos to speak as well as “releasing a statement on the importance of freedom of expression.”
Cauce released a statement the day following the shooting, addressing why she made the decision to allow Yiannopoulos to speak at UW. While she finds Yiannopoulos’ “views…personally repulsive,” Cauce wishes to maintain UW as a place where “passionately expressed views can be aired” and “where [community members] can argue about [their] differences in a manner that is respectful and informed.”
Students have “the legal right…to invite speakers,” and Cauce does not want to act as if “a risk of disruption or conflict [could] be used to overwhelm our rights,” although she “received calls and emails from many who wanted this event cancelled,” she wrote in her statement.
Following the shooting, UWCR released the following statement, which was shared on President Jessie Gamble’s twitter page: “We offer our sincerest gratitude to the UWPD tonight. Thanks to their hard work, Milo was able to have his talk and protesters were unable to break in. Our thoughts and prayers are with the shooting victim in Harborview.”
The victim, according to the Seattle Times, was in critical condition, but has since “underwent surgery” and is now in serious condition. As of Monday, he “remained in the Intensive Care Unit, but was breathing on his own,” according to reporters Steve Miletich and Susan Kelleher.
Besides the shooting, most accounts of the protest described it as peaceful. Cauce considers it “an outrage that anyone would resort to violence in the middle of this otherwise peaceful protest,” she wrote in her statement.
Tyler Araquistain, University of Puget Sound student, was at the protest. “The people were peaceful there,” she said. “It was a surreal experience to have this whole crowd of people chanting the same things that I believe in.”
Many people attended the protest to protest Trump as well as Yiannopoulos, since the speech took place on Inauguration Day. Trump and Yiannopoulos stand for similar ideologies, and many people feel it is more crucial than ever that their voice is heard.
“I think protests are one of the few chances you get to really get your voice heard,” Araquistain said. “I felt like my rights, my opinions and my beliefs were not being listened to with Trump as president. I needed to be involved and I felt like I actually had a place, I wasn’t just someone in the crowd.”
The events of Jan. 20 contribute to a larger issue in the academic realm of freedom of speech and the potential dangers it poses.