Alt-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos will return to Cal Poly later this month, once again at the invitation of the Cal Poly College Republicans.
Yiannopoulos will speak at Mott Athletic Center at 7 p.m. on April 26; he is set to be joined by conservative YouTube show hosts Austen Fletcher, known online as Fleccas, and Carl Benjamin, known as Sargon of Akkad.
In a statement released Thursday morning on Facebook, the College Republicans cited the cancellation of a Cal Poly-sponsored fake news panel in February as the inspiration behind the invitations.
The club originally invited Bill Whittle, whose remarks linking race to intelligence drew heated criticism, to participate in the February panel; when Whittle withdrew, the College Republicans offered up Yiannopoulos as a replacement but were denied.
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"After they withdrew all their support and pulled their speakers a week before the event, we began to orchestrate an event of our own," the club's Facebook post said.
In a response to a Tribune inquiry on Wednesday, Cal Poly spokesman Matt Lazier wrote in an email that the event "is being presented by the club, not by the university," but defended the university's decision to allow Yiannopoulos — who has used previous speaking engagements to decry feminism and abortion and to harass transgender college students — to speak.
"Censoring language and viewpoints violates First Amendment rights and does not represent what Cal Poly stands for as a university," Lazier wrote.
When he spoke at Cal Poly last year, Yiannopoulos was a rising star on the right; he was technology editor for Breitbart, with a lucrative book deal and a college campus tour generating fresh controversies.
While his appearance at Cal Poly was uneventful — unlike the violent protests that led to his UC Berkeley speech being canceled — Cal Poly and the California State University system spent more than $55,000 to provide security for the event: 109 police officers, including SWAT members. The event also cost the City of San Luis Obispo more than $9,000.
"University officials are discussing measures that will be taken in order to maintain a safe and secure campus environment while allowing the club to proceed with its event," Lazier wrote.
In the 15 months since his last visit, Yiannopoulos resigned from his Breitbart position after his remarks defending pedophilia surfaced; his book deal was also canceled.
In October 2017, Buzzfeed published a lengthy article tying Yiannopoulos and his former boss, ex-Breitbart head and former Donald Trump adviser Steve Bannon, to the burgeoning online white supremacist and neo-Nazi movement.
The story included video of Yiannopoulos singing "America the Beautiful" at a karaoke bar, with white supremacist leader Richard Spencer and others in the crowd delivering the Nazi salute.
However, Yiannopoulos continues to tour college campuses — he is scheduled to speak at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge on April 11.
While not so high profile as Yiannopoulos, both Fletcher and Benjamin have built a reputation for themselves in the online alt-right community.
Fletcher routinely attends protests for liberal causes and conducts interviews where he belittles and humiliates protesters. The "About" page of his YouTube account reads, "Leftist protesters roast themselves while being interviewed by a guy holding a microphone taped to a spoon."
Like Yiannopoulos, Benjamin was an active influencer of the #GamerGate movement, a Twitter-based campaign that harassed women in the video game community, some of whom were forced into hiding after receiving death threats.
The Cal Poly College Republicans said all three men will take part in a panel to discuss fake news.
In a statement released Thursday afternoon, the Cal Poly Students for Quality Education — who led the last protest against Yiannopoulos — wrote that, "Anyone who invites Milo Yiannopoulos to our campus is not invested in productive or generative dialogue, rather they are invested in bullying and demonizing the most vulnerable in our community."
The group added that they "refuse to debate the legality of Mr. Yiannopoulos' presence, and we call on people of moral conscience to show up and resist the hatred, bigotry and propaganda that is Milo Yiannopoulos' brand."
The Tribune has reached out to Yiannopoulos for comment. This story will be updated as more information becomes available.