UC Davis takes on alt-right hate

January 17, 2017

Zavi Katzvik reports on a demonstration that forced right-wing figure Milo Yiannopoulos to cancel a speech at the University of California-Davis.

STUDENT PROTESTERS at University of California (UC)-Davis stood their ground against the so-called "alt-right" on January 13 and successfully shut down a reactionary event led by Milo Yiannopoulos.

Yiannopoulos, an editor for the right-wing website Breitbart News, is best known for getting permanently banned from Twitter after directing a racist online mob to attack Ghostbusters actress Leslie Jones and using a previous university lecture at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee to bully a transgender student.

The UC Davis College Republican Club organized an event to feature the controversial alt-right spokesperson, plus his guest, former pharmaceutical executive Martin Shkreli. This was one of a series of events Yiannopoulos scheduled across California, including at UC Berkeley, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and UCLA.

The counterprotest at UC Davis was led by Students for a Democratic Society. Also in attendance were students from UC Berkeley; members of UAW Local 2865, the union for graduate employees and academic workers in the UC system; and participants in local anti-fascist initiatives. About 250 people stood outside the Science Lecture Hall to send the message that fascism was not welcome on campus.

Students at UC Davis protest the far-right celebrity Milo Yiannopoulos
Students at UC Davis protest the far-right celebrity Milo Yiannopoulos (Jay Gelvezon | The Aggie)

The counterprotesters chanted "No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA" and "No justice, no peace," contending with Milo supporters yelling "USA!" and singing patriotic hymns. Barricades placed outside the doors were designed to keep protesters from blocking the way into the meeting, with UC Davis police standing just outside the hall.

After about a half hour of chanting, protesters began to swell in front of the hall and pulled the barricades back. At first, a small handful of students linked arms in front of the entrance. One student who managed to find a way inside was arrested by the police.

Soon, protesters blocked the entrance, shouting "Shut it down!" and "Milo is not the only fascist here." After another period of time, UC Davis staff announced that the event had been cancelled. Yiannopoulos and Shkreli walked outside and were greeted with chants of "Out! Out! Out!"

OUT OF frustration and anger, some Yiannopoulos supporters tried to antagonize the crowd, including using violence. Duane Wright, a member of UAW Local 2865, said, "While Nazis were pushing people around and slamming them to the ground--I witnessed this with my own eyes--the UC police stood there, just protecting the empty building."

Fortunately, protesters--with campus police doing little to nothing to protect students--organized to push the agitators out and away from the gathering.

Shortly after the protest ended, Yiannopoulos took to Breitbart News to bemoan the "violence from left-wing protesters," and accuse demonstrators of bringing hammers and smashing windows. Contrary to these claims, the UC Davis staff stated that there was no damage to campus property, and police acknowledged that there were no immediate threats of violence.

The only violence, it seems, was the violence that came from the alt-right. Regardless, in an attempt to "salvage free speech," Yiannopoulos met with supporters and Davis College Republicans the next day in the afternoon to march.

The alt-right racists will do anything to gain notoriety, including twisting the truth and engaging in violent acts against peaceful protesters. But through solidarity and strength in numbers, the students, organizers and union members can successfully shut down a far-right threat.

We should continue to challenge Yiannopoulos at each of his tour stops.

Further Reading

From the archives