Cal Poly and the Cal State University system spent $55,400 to provide security for Tuesday’s controversial talk by right-wing provocateur and Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos that drew about 150 protesters and included Confederate and Nazi flag burnings but no violent incidents or arrests.
Cal Poly’s share of the cost was $15,800, while the CSU system absorbed $39,600 in salary costs to send 40 officers from its Critical Response Unit to help Cal Poly police the event, Cal Poly spokesman Matt Lazier said Thursday.
University officials said they believe the police presence and advance planning “had a direct correlation to the evening progressing relatively peacefully and without arrests or violent altercations.”
“I am very grateful to university police Chief George Hughes, his team, and all of the other local and CSU officers who helped us provide a safe environment for everyone to express their opinions passionately but peacefully Tuesday night,” Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong said in statement released Thursday. “Our university police were prepared for the worst-case scenario, and I believe that’s what allowed us to avoid it, maintain calm and give everyone an opportunity to express their voice.”
But Cal Poly student Matt Klepfer, a member of the student activist group SLO Solidarity and the Cal Poly Queer Student Union, said the atmosphere was “hostile, intimidating and threatening” and left him and others wondering who the university was protecting.
“Around 6:05 p.m., they replaced the regularly dressed officers with militarized riot police who were wearing all black, visibly had zip-ties and wore face shields covering their faces,” Klepfer said. “Most troubling to me was how officers were holding large police batons in their hands, which could have easily been holstered.”
He added: “The fact that they were holding them was obviously to intimidate protesters, who were mostly students protesting on their own campus. ... I was genuinely unsure if I was at my university or if I was in a war zone.”
Klepfer said he also was concerned about the “final sticker price” the university would be paying for the security, having heard estimates of $67,000 to $80,000.
“It is important to remember that the university could have paid for a full-time faculty position for one year for that same amount of money,” he said.
Cal Poly staffed Tuesday’s event with 109 officers from seven agencies — 19 Cal Poly police officers, 40 CSU officers, 28 state Department of Corrections officers, 12 San Luis Obispo County Regional SWAT team officers, four San Luis Obispo Police Department bicycle officers, three California Highway Patrol officers and three K-9 officers from State Parks.
The five non-CSU agencies provided officers as part of a mutual aid agreement with Cal Poly and did not charge the university, Lazier said.
Cal Poly’s expenses included temporary fencing around Spanos Theatre, where Yiannopoulos spoke in the event hosted by the Cal Poly College Republicans. University Police also paid for food and lodging for the CSU officers.
Demonstrators who chanted “No Milo, no KKK, no fascist USA,” and “Hey, ho, Nazi scum has got to go” protested peacefully, in contrast to protesters who turned violent before Yiannopoulos’ scheduled appearance Wednesday at UC Berkeley.
The UC Berkeley speech was canceled and the university was put on lockdown after protesters broke windows, started fires, and lobbed rocks and bricks at police and at the building in which Yiannopoulos was set to speak. At least six people were injured.
In January, a protester was shot in an altercation at the University of Washington outside a hall where Yiannopoulos spoke.