The views expressed in the following column are those of the writer only and do not necessarily represent the views of the Collegian or its editorial board.
“Move along fuck boy” “you have betrayed your own race” these are just a few of the vulgar statements shouted by protesters lingering outside CU’s math building, where the controversial speaker Milo Yiannopoulos held his event. These protesters lined the grass behind a row of police officers and were strewn in all black, wearing gas masks, bandannas, and combat boots. They were hoisting all black flags and signs with sayings such as “Queer Rage” and “Punch Nazis” and continually chanted, “No Trump. No KKK. No fascist USA”. In contrast, a small coalition of conservative students were holding a counter demonstration no more than five feet away. They were wearing make “America Great Again” hats, and holding signs proclaiming, “Trump IS your president” and “taxation is theft” while chanting “U.S.A”.
Although seemingly civil at first, the protest soon turned hostile when a male in all black holding an “ANTIFA” poster began yelling at police officers that they were protecting fascist, racist, sexist, homophobes, while using intimidation. The protester continually, and rhetorically, asked “Who are you protecting?” This incited a response from counter protesters who chanted, “blue lives matter” and debates blew up across the crowd. Juan Caro and Sarah Bruce from Conservative Interest Group and Caucus of Colorado, were repeatedly targeted by these protesters. Caro stood amid a group of protesters holding a sign saying “Liberals Stole 3 of our signs, and 50% of our income”, the sign was violently ripped out of his hands after three previous posters had been torn, and the crowd swarmed him. Bruce was not holding any signs, and were only responding to reporters, yet had her hair pulled and protesters began to chant, “cry white girl, cry!” I walked into the protesters’ crowd trying to get anyone to talk to me, and when I asked my first question a man responded “fuck you and the media” and flipped me off, followed by girls shouting “they are so fucking stupid” and I was immediately pushed back into the line of police officers.
The protestors linked arms and began walking forward towards the event center pushing back officers and conservative demonstrators. Attendees of Yiannopoulos’ lecture had to be escorted into the building by officers, could not bring any bags, were required to walk through metal detectors, along with various other security measures. Minutes after the lecture began ticket holders to the event had their email addresses leaked, and received a message stating “We know who you are, tonight we will know your faces. The identities of attendees will be released to the public on a list of known Neo-Nazi sympathizers. We do not tolerate fascists.”
Boulder police and SWAT were on the scene in riot gear escorting people out of the building following the speech as protesters shouted, “get the red hats!” as they stalked attendees. Never in my life have I been truly frightened for my life until then. Although it was not nearly as serious as the protest at UW where bricks were thrown and someone was shot, or at UCLA where attendees had to be evacuated because of a bomb threat. This experience was still hostile, violent, yet eye-opening. Hundreds of people came to this event to protest Yiannopoulos, because they said he made students feel unsafe, their rights were going to be taken away, and because the speaker did not reflect their values. These protesters were so convinced that they were right that they would shout over anyone who tried to engage them in discussion.
That’s when it dawned on me, these people do not want open discussion or free speech. Nor do they care that it is a first amendment right violation to ban Milo Yiannopoulos from speaking on campus. The only thing these protesters want is to shove their liberal ideals down the throats of anyone who will listen, and the minute a counter view or diverse opinion is shared they blow up. They use ad hominems to try and demonize conservatives instead of debating. Instead of welcoming diverse thought and speakers onto campus, they try and ban anyone who does not agree with mainstream leftist thought. These protesters use safe spaces and cry sessions as a way to coddle each other and insulate themselves from diverse beliefs. They do not debate; they attack and then retreat and hide.
In addition to intolerant protesting they use violent rhetoric and undignified signs and behavior to spread their views. Yelling at police officers, dressing up in gas masks, and holding posters full of ad hominems is not going to convince conservatives and libertarians to change their views. Protesters lecture people about spreading kindness and acceptance, while they spew hatred and violence. In order to rally people behind a cause they have to use rational means and welcoming actions. By yelling and insulting people you will not change their views, it will only fuel their hatred and isolate them further in the opposite direction. Using violent protest, while insulting anyone with an opposing view, and banning discussion is the last way to spread tolerance and create a following; the protest at Milo Yiannopoulos’ event proves this.