A firebrand speaker who was permanently banned from Twitter for “inciting or engaging in the targeted abuse or harassment of others” blasted a transgender student by name at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, prompting the school’s chancellor to immediately condemn the speech in a campus-wide email.
Breitbart writer Milo Yiannopoulos brought his “Dangerous Faggots Tour” to the Student Union at UWM on Tuesday night at the invitation of a new student group called Turning Point USA.
During his speech to a crowd the university estimated at 325 to 350 people, plus others watching via live stream on the Breitbart website, Yiannopoulos singled out a transgender student who had protested against a new UWM policy created for its recreation center’s locker rooms.
The policy was adopted after the student — who is in the process of physical transition from male to female — used the sauna in the women’s locker room last January. The new policy requires that “non-conforming genitalia be covered at all times,” and the university added private showers and changing rooms with curtains to make that easier.
Yiannopoulos named and showed a picture of the student to his audience, and accused the student of being a man trying to find his way into women’s bathrooms.
“The way you know he’s failed is I can still bang him,” said Yiannopoulos, who is gay.
In an email to the campus Tuesday night, shortly after the event ended, chancellor Mark Mone said UWM was prohibited by law from restricting access to its facilities based on the viewpoint of a student organization or a speaker invited by a student organization.
“Free speech is one of UWM’s core values and I will support students’ decisions to bring a wide array of speakers to our campus – even if the speaker is controversial, and even if I disagree with him or her,” Mone said.
“That said, I do not agree with Yiannopoulos’ views, and I strongly condemn the belittling of others and their appearance, and the encouragement of hate and harassment. I also will not stand silently by when a member of our campus community is personally and wrongly attacked.”
The student withdrew from UWM in October, according to UWM spokesman Tom Luljak.
Mone’s statement did little to mollify the student, who directed an angry, expletive-filled email to the chancellor, slamming his response as inadequate, according to a report on Media Milwaukee, the UWM student publication.
“What exactly do you plan to do? OH YEAH, NOTHING, BECAUSE YOU’RE A COWARDLY PIECE OF (expletive),” one passage on the email included in the Media Milwaukee post reads. “Your (sic) ‘not standing silently’ apparently consists of a single email mass-sent to the university. That’s it. You don’t get a (expletive) cookie for that. What else were you going to go? NOTHING.”
Turning Point USA, the group that invited the speaker, started a UWM chapter in October. Its Facebook page says its aim is to educate students “about the importance of fiscal responsibility, free markets and limited government.”
Coincides with Trump visit
The timing of Yiannopoulos’ UWM appearance coincided with president-elect Donald Trump’s “thank you” tour stop in West Allis. A British citizen, Yiannopoulos has been an outspoken Trump supporter.
As Breitbart’s tech writer, Yiannopoulos is a high-profile figure in the “alt-right,” or alternative right movement, the name used by a group that promotes white supremacism and a culture dominated by white males of European descent.
Stephen K. Bannon, who Trump has named to be his chief strategist in the White House, chaired Breitbart before taking a leave of absence to run Trump’s campaign. Bannon has described Breitbart as the platform of the alt-right.
Yiannopoulos was permanently banned from Twitter in July as part of a crackdown on racist abuse targeting “Ghostbusters” actor Leslie Jones.
Breitbart posted a story Wednesday that criticized Mone for not speaking out against protesters of Yiannopoulos’ speech. About 50 people protested the speaker from a nearby ballroom in the Student Union.
“Every member of our community should feel safe and valued, regardless of beliefs, race, sexual orientation, immigration or other status,” Mone said in his statement. “We are at a pivotal moment in our nation’s history after a contentious and divisive election. We can continue to use language that widens the divide. Or, we can choose language that bridges gaps and heals. I urge you to join me in seeking ways to reach out and find common ground.”
A protest petition circulated by faculty and instructors criticized the university for “hosting someone who has espoused hateful, abusive and dangerous rhetoric.”
The petition, signed by 339 people, said that the faculty and instructors were “afraid for our students.”
“They question whether or not UWM truly strives to foster a ‘caring, compassionate, and collegial community’ that promotes ‘ethical behavior based on integrity, accountability, and responsibility,’ ” the petition said, quoting from UWM’s mission and values statements.
UWM police and several private security officers hired by the Student Union were present at the event.
While there were no arrests, there was a shouting incident before the event started when a Milo producer went to the ballroom where about 50 people were protesting and engaged with them, Luljak said. Police kept the producer and the protesters apart as the producer videotaped the verbal altercation, and the incident ended quickly, he said.
Yiannopoulos started his speech by showing the just-captured video of his producer sparring with the protesters, Luljak said.