Education

Don't protest Milo Yiannopoulos — have a potluck instead, SLO mayor says

Protests at Cal Poly against Milo Yiannopoulos

At its height, about 150 people came to protest the Milo Yiannopoulos' show at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo on Tuesday, January 31, 2017. They carried signs proclaiming “No Trump, No Milo,” and “Good Night, Alt-Right.”
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At its height, about 150 people came to protest the Milo Yiannopoulos' show at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo on Tuesday, January 31, 2017. They carried signs proclaiming “No Trump, No Milo,” and “Good Night, Alt-Right.”

Instead of protesting Milo Yiannopoulos' return visit to Cal Poly next week, San Luis Obispo Mayor Heidi Harmon is calling for community members to host potlucks.

Yiannopoulos last spoke at Cal Poly in January 2017, near the height of his fame, when he drew a large protest while touring college campuses as part of his "Dangerous Faggot" tour.

He'll be back on campus on April 26 to participate in the Cal Poly's College Republican Club's fake news panel, which will also include two conservative YouTube personalities, Austen Fletcher, known online as Fleccas, and Carl Benjamin, known as Sargon of Akkad.

Protesting against alt-right speakers creates a spectacle and gives extremists a larger platform, Harmon said in a written statement. She said that communities should listen and talk to each other, and stand against racism by supporting all people, especially those in marginalized groups.

"Let's take this opportunity to come together and remind ourselves that San Luis Obispo is about building bigger tables, not higher walls," Harmon wrote. "We invite you to join together with friends, neighbors and strangers. Share a meal and your ideas for a better SLO and a better world."

Harmon suggested people text friends, send Facebook invites, and stroll around the neighborhood to reach out to people they don't already know and extend an invite.

Right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos spoke at Spanos Theatre at Cal Poly on Tuesday, January 31, 2017, launching into his “No More Dead Babies” talk in front of a full house. Warning: Video contains adult language.

Harmon cited a note from the Southern Poverty Law Center, saying, "When an alt-right personality is scheduled to speak on campus, the most effective course of action is to de­prive the speaker of the thing he or she wants most — a spectacle. Alt-right personalities know their cause is helped by news footage of large jeering crowds, heated confrontations and outright violence at their events."

The Southern Poverty Law Center encourages people to host events instead, Harmon wrote.

Cal Poly spokesman Matt Lazier said in an email the event "is being presented by the Republican 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.

Three weeks after Yiannopoulos' visit to San Luis Obispo, the technology editor for Breitbart resigned his post and lost his book deal when video surfaced of him condoning sex with underage boys.

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