The visit to Cal Poly’s campus by conservative firebrand and Breitbart News editor Milo Yiannopoulos on Tuesday is expected to draw a heavy, multiagency police presence to provide security for protests planned by several opposition groups.
Meanwhile, the Cross Cultural Centers will be kept open during the event as “safe spaces.” Among the protest groups is one calling itself San Luis Obispo Anti-Racist Action, which has urged its members to wear masks to conceal their identities.
An organizer said in an email to The Tribune its goal was to “shut down” Yiannopoulos, who has drawn criticism for his scathing comments about Muslims, lesbians, feminists, overweight people and liberals, among others. His supporters say his commentary is refreshing because it flouts political correctness.
“When you allow white supremacy and bigotry a place in political discussion, you’re opening the door for genocide being a legitimate political stance,” the email read. “The years leading up to the Holocaust showed us how dangerous and harmful that is.”
Yiannopoulos, a controversial gay British pundit, will talk between 7 and 9 p.m. at Cal Poly’s Spanos Theatre as part of his “Dangerous Faggot” tour of college campuses. In the past week, he’s stopped at the University of Colorado, Boulder; University of Colorado, Colorado Springs; and the University of New Mexico. Each event reportedly had a heavy police presence to monitor large protests, though no major violence occurred.
That hasn’t always been the case. On Jan. 20, a 32-year-old man protesting Yiannopoulos’ talk at the University of Washington sustained a gunshot wound in the stomach after a scuffle. A Jan. 13 appearance at UC Davis was canceled because of protests outside.
Yiannopoulos provided Cal Poly with proof of a $5 million liability insurance policy in order to speak on campus, according to a document released by the university.
The University Police Department is working with other California State University campuses and local police agencies as needed to handle the crowds expected at Cal Poly. San Luis Obispo County’s Regional SWAT team will be activated in case of an emergency the university can’t handle.
While it’s unclear how many officers are assigned to the event, as many as 80 could be on hand, according to an estimate given at the city’s Human Relations Committee meeting Jan. 24.
Cal Poly is assuming the costs for security at the event, as it would for other large gatherings on its campus, including marches and demonstrations. The university’s policy is to not charge student clubs for security services UPD provides, Cal Poly spokesman Matt Lazier said.
“For safety purposes we cannot share all of the details, but the campus is well prepared to provide security and maintain safety,” Lazier said. “Because the Milo event is not the only one on campus the evening of Jan. 31 and because the response may fluctuate depending on how the evening progresses, a specific cost for security is not available at this time.”
An alternative event, Unite Cal Poly, is scheduled from 6 to 9 p.m. Tuesday at the Performing Arts Center and will feature socio-political comedian W. Kamau Bell and R&B singer Allen Stone. According to Cal Poly’s website, the show, which offered hundreds of free tickets to students, is sold out.
Bryan S. Hubain, Cal Poly’s assistant dean and director of the Cross Cultural Centers, said, “Our centers will be operating as safe spaces for all students and university stakeholders on (Tuesday) since some students have communicated that they would like to not engage and would prefer to stay away from Mr. Yiannopoulos’ event. We are also encouraging all students using the Centers to attend the Unite Cal Poly event.”