Hundreds of attendees, protesters and police flooded the Social Sciences Plaza courtyard Thursday night in anticipation of “Social Justice is Cancer,” a speaking engagement by conservative pundit Milo Yiannopoulos. Three hours of demonstrations, police blockades and minor altercations between Yiannopoulos supporters and protesters preceded the hourlong talk itself, during which Yiannopoulos criticized the Black Lives Matter movement, feminism and social justice reform and endorsed presidential candidate Donald Trump.
Yiannopoulos, a former technology editor at conservative website Breitbart.com, is noted for his controversial stances on feminism, immigration and racial justice. He visited UCI during his “Dangerous Faggot Tour,” a nationwide series of campus lectures against social justice. College Republicans at UCI (CRUCI) and UCI Young Americans for Liberty invited Yiannopoulos to campus, inciting controversy last month after hanging on-campus advertisements for the event which UCI administration denounced as “promoting bigotry.”
The line for the event began nearly three hours before Yiannopoulos’s scheduled appearance at 7 PM. Dozens of UCI police officers and student Community Service Officers (CSOs) formed a blockade around the line of supporters, along with dozens more private security officers and City of Irvine Police officers, some clad in riot gear helmets. Five officers from UC Berkeley patrolled the line as well, after being notified the previous day that CRUCI needed additional reinforcements for the event. Dividers further separated the line of hundreds of supporters from the approximately 30 protesters who gathered around 6 PM.
The protesters held signs with slogans including “Feminism is the radical notion that women are people,” and “It’s really not that hard to be a decent human being – try it sometime.” Just beyond the barricade of the line, they chanted “Love trumps hate” and “UC be anti-black; fuck that, we’re fighting back.”
At one point, a Yiannopoulos supporter approached the protesters, chanting “End Islamic terrorism!” and throwing a baby pacifier at a student demonstrator. Yiannopoulos supporters booed the protesters as they circled the supporter, chanted “End white terrorism,” and told him not to touch anyone. Several demonstrators who declined to be named noted that the officers present did not immediately respond to the altercation.
“UCI is better than this! Where’s our protection?” one demonstrator said, as Yiannopoulos supporters on the opposite side of the barricade began chanting “USA! USA!”
Second-year UCI student Cristian Cortez attended the protest as a spectator, and said that Yiannopoulos’s appearance provided a positive opportunity for on-campus discourse.
“This isn’t a unique event – Trump is now the presumptive Republican nominee, and it’s faulty to pretend that the viewpoints of his supporters don’t exist,” said Cortez. “Universities are a place for the exchange of ideas to take place. I am 100 percent glad that [Yiannopoulos] came to campus, because it gives students a chance to hear opinions that they might not otherwise acknowledge.”
Yiannopoulos arrived thirty minutes late, skipping a planned meet-and-greet with the entire audience in order to begin the event at 7:30 PM. The first 200 people in line were admitted to SSPA 1100 to hear Yiannopoulos speak, while protests continued outside.
Yiannopoulos, dressed in a police uniform, focused largely on the Black Lives Matter movement, immigration, feminism and white privilege during his talk, moderated by CRUCI President Ariana Rowlands.
Yiannopoulos began by advocating for racial profiling in policing, arguing that people of color are “most likely to commit crimes.”
“Racial profiling works, and it saves lives,” he said, applauding Republican-run cities which support profiling. He claimed that stop-and-frisk policies under former Republican mayor of New York, Rudy Giuliani, were effective in ten percent of cases.
When pressed on the issue of white privilege, Yiannopoulos responded that “it’s a meme and a myth.”
“[White privilege] is jealousy, because straight white men built everything,” Yiannopoulos said. “Literature, art, the Internet, philosophy, music, freedom, the rule of law…gave women the vote, gave minorities the vote, emancipated the blacks after slavery – maybe it’s jealousy.”
He proceeded to denounce feminism, claiming that it propagates “the lies of rape culture, and the wage gap.”
“Ugly women could do with a bit of the patriarchy,” Yiannopoulos quipped. He noted that he was fired from a reporting job four times for writing that women don’t succeed in technology-based careers because “men and women are good at different things,” and women’s IQs tend not to be as high as those of their male counterparts.
“It’s easy, if you’re mediocre and useless at everything and being a woman or being black is your only marketable skill, to buy into the patriarchy or white supremacy…but it’s mainly used as an excuse for people to explain why their lives suck,” he said. “The best way to solve your problems is to get up, get an education…work hard, get a sense of pride, dignity and purpose in your life and stop looking to other people for the answers to your problems.”
Yiannopoulos concluded his discussion with Rowlands by encouraging protesters to “keep coming” to his events, as they draw attention to his platform.
“I love my protesters,” Yiannopoulos said. “They do a lot of the hard work for me.”
Sarah Entezari, a criminology student at UCI, watched as the protests continued outside SSPA during Yiannopoulos’s event, before wrapping up shortly after Yiannopoulos left and attendees were ushered out.
“It’s nice to see that our generation isn’t as apathetic as everyone says we are, but this is just dividing campus in an unnecessary and harmful manner,” said Entezari. “[The Yiannopoulos side] is promoting hatred, not free speech.”