The upcoming talk by alt-right speaker Milo Yiannopoulos on UNM campus, part of his “Dangerous Faggot Tour,” has been a controversial and hotly discussed topic for students lately.
Several student groups and individuals have taken it upon themselves to protest the provocative nature of Yiannopoulos’ political views and ultimately shut down the event.
The event organizers, from the University’s College Republicans and Young Americans for Liberty, have been working to promote their value of free speech throughout this entire process.
Ryan Ansloan, a member of both groups, said he fears the possible actions of groups who disagree with Yiannopoulos’ political ideologies.
Ansloan said he knows of one group in particular, Red Nation, who is planning on storming the stage at the event and taking the mic, essentially shutting down the event.
“I just think that would be the absolute worst outcome, us having to cancel the event because people weren’t letting us engage in a dialogue,” he said. “And that’s really the objective of this event. We host Milo because he talks about free speech issues, and then that free speech would get shut down by the other side”.
Ansloan also spoke about the campaign rally for Hillary Clinton, which was held on campus earlier in the fall and featured former Democratic nominee Bernie Sanders.
“When Bernie Sanders was hosted on campus last semester, there was no one on the right saying, ‘Oh he’s a socialist, we got to shut him down’. You go, you listen to what the other side has to say, you respect everyone’s opinions and then you engage in a dialogue about the content of what they’re saying. That’s where we should be. When they call for events to be shut down and threaten to take it into their own hands, that’s too far,” he said.
In response to groups and individuals planning on protesting the event, Marina Herrera, president of College Republicans, said the group encourages students, who are inclined, to engage in peaceful protest.
“We are strong advocates of the First Amendment, which secures all Americans’ right to peaceably assemble regardless of the content of that speech,” Herrera said. “We do not support violent or destructive protests or action taken to silence other speech, which is what some on the radical left seem to be planning. We’d encourage all to attend and hear both sides of the issues facing our country.”
Security fee comes and goes
Aside from political disagreements surrounding the event, the College Republicans have also faced several issues with the event planning itself.
According to Ansloan, until recently, the group had only expected to pay a small security fee of around $400, as Yiannopoulos does not charge a speaking fee to appear on college campuses.
Through several miscommunications with the University, he said, they learned of an increase to this fee from UNMPD.
Herrera said that, though they have been in contact with the University since September, they were told on Jan. 13, two weeks before the event, that they would be charged a security fee of $3,400.
Ansloan said, because of the late notice, they were unable to file for any sort of appropriation or repurposing of funds from ASUNM.
In response, the group set up a GoFundMe page, hoping to gain donations from supporters in the local community.
Despite raising over $3,500, the donations would turn out to be unnecessary, as acting UNM President Chouki Abdallah announces Wednesday evening that the security fee for Friday’s event, as well as future events by any student group, would be waived.
The decision comes after discussion of the current state of UNM policy at last Friday’s regents meeting, in which Regent Thomas Clifford expressed concern regarding UNM security services policy, “and how its application may impact free speech on campus,” Abdallah said in a statement.
“As a result I am directing the immediate suspension and application of that portion of the policy that results in fees for security and police protection, pending a thorough policy review,” he wrote.
Before the announcement, Ansloan told the Daily Lobo he hopes the University will ultimately be able to provide this security for the safety of those attending.
“We don’t want to put the student body in danger from violent liberal protesters. Hopefully the University will provide us with the security, protect its own students and will not fine for engaging in free speech. That’s ideal,” he said.
UNMPD is responsible for security for student events, and if a student organization wants to host an event, they must submit a security request through UNMPD.
According to UNMPD Lieutenant Tim Stump, the student group was well aware of the now-dropped charges ahead of time.
“Security has to be approved for an event before it can be made official,” he said. “The student organization was made aware of the cost months ago.”
Stump went on to say that a smaller security detail was decided for the event, but given the climate at other universities that hosted Yiannopoulos, they made the decision to have more security, resulting in the aforementioned $3,400 charge.
He said the University of Washington started with 50 officers when Yiannopoulos came, but needed 300 by the time it came to a close. Despite the strong presence, there was a shooting at the protest, sending one person to the hospital.
“Our big concern is the safety of the University, and everyone attending the event, including the protesters,” Stump said.
The department plans on having at least six police officers, 10 security officers and are collaborating with the Albuquerque Police Department, Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department and State Police in order to ensure everyone is safe.
“We are strategically planning for the need of more security for Yiannopoulos. It will be staffed accordingly and several agencies are assisting,” Stump said.
If it is decided that more security is needed, the student groups will not be held responsible for the extra charges, he said.
Ansloan attributed the sudden security fee to the political nature of Yiannopoulos in general, particularly in light of his recent events at other campuses being canceled.
“At some point the media started questioning the University on the political nature of what Milo talks about. And then other student groups started to basically call us all Nazis, which is one, not true and two, just incredibly insulting and not conducive to any sort of dialogue on campus,” Ansloan said.
Tickets for the event are currently being distributed through Eventbrite, though Herrera says this does not necessarily guarantee entry and students should arrive early as there will be an enforced capacity of 600 people.
Nikole McKibben is a news reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at news @dailylobo.com or on Twitter @nmckibben92.
Gabriela Garcia-Huff is a news reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at news @dailylobo.com or on Twitter @thegreen_gablin.