After weeks of not knowing for certain whether the University would allow the event to go on as scheduled, polarizing right-wing Breitbart writer Milo Yiannopoulos was met with acceptance and some resistance inside the SUB Ballroom Friday night, where he touched on immigration, Muslims in America and his distaste for the progressive movement.
Yiannopoulos’ speech, titled “America Deserves Borders,” was part of his country-wide “Dangerous Faggot Tour,” which has encountered opposition and, in some places, violence.
Yiannopoulos cast these leftist activist and minority groups in a negative light, but last night he ensured that no one was in a bubble. The speaker is known to be a provocateur in many places.
“2017 is the year social justice f***ing dies,” Yiannopoulos said.
Protesters were in the audience, and yelled out in opposition at various points, particularly when Yiannopoulos said women in Islam were suppressed more than any other group.
One woman wearing a hijab who stood up and repeatedly called him a “hatemongerer” was escorted out by police as Yiannopoulos said, “You’re wearing a hijab in the United States, what is wrong with you?”
He touted the importance of free speech, and commended acting President Chaouki Abdallah for suspending a portion of the policy that requires groups pay a security fee for free speech events.
Abdallah released a University-wide memo earlier in the week outlining UNM values on free speech.
“UNM must be a place in which we can freely debate difficult questions in a respectful, inclusive way,” he . “Free exchange of ideas is vital to our mission as a university. However, these times bring challenges to preserving a campus climate that fosters both free speech and respect for others.”
Yiannopoulos’ remarks on Friday were mostly met with applause from those in attendance, some of it more scattered than at other points.
A portion of the talk touched on undocumented immigrants, at which point he highlighted crimes allegedly committed by those coming across the border illegally, a slide with the numbers for Immigration and Customs Enforcement looming large behind him.
He said the leftist argument that illegal immigrants do the jobs that no one else wants to do is a lie, referring to a story where a meatpacking plant had all its illegal immigrants deported, and it was forced to hire American workers and raise wages.
“There is no job too dirty; there are only wages too low driven down by illegal immigration,” Yiannopoulos said.
He went on to explain that President Donald Trump is doing the right thing by following other world leaders, and that his “America first” plans do not have racial overtones.
“You have to get your own house in order before you can help other people,” Yiannopoulos said. “You are under no obligation to let these people into your country.”
The event, hosted by UNM College Republicans, drew in a diverse crowd of around 600 people. Some were well aware of his controversial rhetoric — which outside the SUB were associating with white supremacy — and others were attending out of curiosity.
“I want to see what he actually says, to see if it rises to the level of what everybody seems to be complaining about,” said Dennis Domrzalski while standing in line before the event.
Domrzalski said he has read some of Yiannopoulos’ material online, but “nothing extensive.”
On the other hand, UNM freshman Jake Duffy has been a fan of Yiannopoulos since high school.
“I’m here to be part of a discussion that I think New Mexico lacks,” he said. “Whether you believe Yiannopoulos is moderate or far right, it is good to have an opinion or political conversation in a place where we severely lack it.”
Duffy went on to say that he likes that Yiannopoulos “says and does what he wants and sparks a political conversation.”
No one should be silenced for having an opinion, he said, echoing the argument that College Republicans have utilizing to justify the event.
“Regardless of where you are on the (political) spectrum, everybody should have the right to speak their mind,” Duffy said.
He said he feels like protesters calling Yiannopoulos supporters "Nazis" is taking it too far.
“I understand why people would use the words 'Nazi' or 'fascist' to describe Yiannopoulos supporters, but at the same time it is not right to condemn anybody,” Duffy said.
Nikole McKibben is a news reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at news @dailylobo.com or on Twitter @nmckibben92.