FULLERTON, Calif. (AP) — Right-wing firebrand Milo Yiannopoulos is scheduled to speak at a Southern California college campus on Halloween night and other student groups are planning a “unity” party demonstration to offset what they say is his hateful rhetoric.
About 800 people are expected to attend the speech at California State University, Fullerton, but it’s unclear how many might show up in opposition. Campus police are stepping up security for potentially dueling demonstrations. Masks and face paint are prohibited in a cordoned-off area around the event and only ticketholders can get in.
The event comes after a series of other scheduled speeches by Yiannopoulos have fallen through. He called off a weekend appearance in Arizona after a series of threats, and made a fleeting appearance at the famously liberal University of California, Berkeley last month after a weeklong free speech event he helped organize was called off.
Last February, Cal-Berkeley police canceled Yiannopoulos’ scheduled speech on campus just before it was to begin, citing safety concerns. A large crowd had gathered outside and the peaceful demonstration turned violent when dozens of black-clad anarchists appeared and attacked some demonstrators and later vandalized some businesses near the campus.
Cal State Fullerton is a largely commuter campus serving about 40,000 students. Unlike Berkeley, the school isn’t known as a hotbed of political activism, though there has been an increase in rallies and demonstrations over the last year, campus police Lt. Scot Willey said.
Yiannopoulos was invited to speak by the College Republicans. Brooke Paz, a spokeswoman for the group, said the goal was to draw attention to free speech and the presence of politically conservative students on campus.
“We really just felt left out of the conversations on campus as conservatives and bringing him has really started this conversation about free speech,” she said. Brittany Goss, an organizer for Students for Quality Education, said she wishes the school hadn’t allowed the event, which is prompting a campus bookstore and recreation center to close early as a precaution.
She said her organization and Latino, women and immigrant groups are planning a peaceful, festival-like event to show their opposition to Yiannopoulos. “We hope to kind of show that this is what our community is about,” she said.