On Feb. 1, journalist Milo Yiannopoulos was expected to speak at the University of California, Berkeley, but there were a large group of protestors who barred him from campus.
The protests quickly turned to riots, as a mob set fire to the campus.
The fire caused monuments of Yiannopoulos to melt. A woman was also pepper sprayed for no apparent reason during a local TV interview and police pulled a man wearing a Trump hat out of the violent crowd.
Yiannopoulos was evacuated by the police and was found safe in a hotel later that night where he uploaded a YouTube video calling the riots “hypocritical.” CNN reported that at least six people were injured.
Milo Yiannopoulos is a gay far-right conservative who is allegedly known to target feminists, Muslims and transgenders. Many on the left have called him a Nazi, white supremacist and a misogynist as well.
President Donald J. Trump tweeted that night: “If U.C. Berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view – NO FEDERAL FUNDS?”
The university blamed the 150 rioters, who are said to be a part of an anarchist group known as the “Black Bloc.”
I find myself asking what hate speech is and whether or not Milo Yiannopoulos’ first amendment rights were violated like he is claiming.
“Hate speech are comments that are discriminatory or prejudice towards a group of people. It expresses a bias that is not fair,” said Jeremy Weiss, a freshman criminal justice major.
I’m not going to pretend I know extensive details about academic policies and what determines universities federal funds to be taken away, but I do believe in the upholding of the first amendment.
“I think it’s a question of academic freedom,” said Eliot Reasoner, a senior English Literature major.
It’s not a legal term, but I think Reasoner is onto something. I do not believe academic freedom can be used in this scenario, but if we were talking about a private university, then maybe that would be more relevant.
Obama himself said, “Anybody who comes to speak to you and you disagree with, you should have an argument with them, but you shouldn’t silence them by saying you can’t come because I’m too sensitive to hear what you have to say.”
“I don’t think speakers should be censored either, because anytime a university is censoring what their students get to listen to or who they don’t, they are doing something they weren’t trained to do. It’s not the job of academics to do that,” Reasoner said.
I agree with Reasoner. It is not a university’s job to tell me who I can have speak to me or not. Imagine if an atheist was invited to speak at APU, but APU said no and the speaker was not allowed to speak. Would the speaker’s first amendment rights be violated?
If there was ever a chapel speaker that was a controversial individual and there were students who did not like this, I welcome them to protest. They should be allowed to protest as much as they desire, but this controversial individual should be allowed to speak. Neither party’s first amendment right should be withheld. If the protests become violent, to the point of this controversial individual no longer being able to stay on campus and be evacuated, then his first amendment rights have now been violated.
A quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. comes to mind from all of this. He once said: “A riot is the language of the unheard.” I think university students should really take this into consideration if they truly wish for their voices to be heard.