Two nights on Milo Yiannopoulos’s campus tour: as offensive as you’d imagine

Abigail Edge followed the notorious online trolls speaking tour to two campuses in Colorado and found plenty of protests, supporters and hateful rhetoric

Around a dozen police in riot gear line the entrance to the mathematics building at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Inside, professional hatemonger Milo Yiannopoulos is addressing an audience of around 400 people, peppered with bright red baseball caps. Outside, a restless crowd of 200 protesters are holding signs and chanting anti-Trump slogans, their breath rising amid freezing temperatures cold enough to make your cellphone cut out. A roar rises up from the crowd, followed by the smell of smoke. The smouldering remains of a red Make America Great Again hat hit the ground.

What Im scared about is the normalization of fascism, and what Id regard as fascist values like racism and sexism, says Charles Wofford, a 28-year-old graduate student who has come to protest the event.

Wofford started an online petition asking CU Boulder chancellor Philip DiStefano to revoke Yiannopouloss invitation to speak that received more than 1,850 signatures. Although the university never responded to the petition, he hopes to keep the momentum of that action going.

If Milo can come here and be given a platform, then theres no particular reason to think that the American Nazi party or the Ku Klux Klan might not want to come here, says Wofford. So the organization thats come from protesting Milo needs to stay in place.

CUs main campus, in Boulder, is set in one of the most liberal cities in the US. With a population of 103,000 people, the city has been a destination for hippies, rock climbers and radical thinkers since the 1960s. Last year Forbes named Boulder the most educated city in the US, and it has more used bookstores per capita than any other city in the country, according to the local tourist board. With that comes wealth the cost of the average Boulder home surpassed $1m (808,210) in 2016. In Novembers election, more than 70% of Boulders votes were for Clinton and just 22% for Trump.

Yiannopoulos who is gay, an outspoken Trump supporter and a Breitbart editor is visiting CU Boulder on his campus speaking tour, The Dangerous Faggot, the name of which is emblazoned across his tour bus.

He spends the first 20 minutes of his talk rallying against the liberalism of Boulder before launching into a diatribe covering feminism, the media and Ghostbusters actress Leslie Jones, on whom Yiannopoulos unleashed an army of racist Twitter trolls, resulting in him being banned from the platform.

Reverend
Reverend Roger Wolsey of the Wesley Fellowship Campus Ministry. Photograph: Abigail Edge

Hosted by the conservative student organizations College Republicans and Turning Point USA, Yiannopouloss speeches have been widely protested in both the UK and the US. Earlier this month, his appearance at the University of California, Davis, was cancelled after protests. And last week, on inauguration day, a protester was shot at the University of Washington where a large demonstration was taking place outside Yiannopouloss event.

Outside the red sandstone mathematics building, Avalon McFarland, a 20-year-old sophomore wearing a grey hat and glittery eye makeup, is part of a smaller counter-protest.

Not so long ago, she was a liberal herself. She caucused for Bernie Sanders but changed her perspective after the WikiLeaks dump of Hillary Clintons emails, which McFarland claims showed Sanders was working for Hillary.

Speaking about the next four years under a Trump presidency, she says: Im really hopeful because I think this ushers in an era of populism.

We took the power back as the people, and the silent majority spoke, she adds notwithstanding the fact that Trump lost the popular vote by nearly 2.9 million votes.

The following evening, 81 miles south of Boulder, Yiannopoulos is at CU Colorado Springs to give another talk, though slightly less vitriolic. Likely he has less to rile against: Colorado Springs, population 439,886, is not just conservative its famous for being conservative. It is the home of evangelical organizations such as the New Life Church and Focus on the Family, which promotes creationism and opposes same-sex marriage. It also has an army base, two air force bases and is home to the US Air Force Academy.

In November 2015, a lone gunman entered a Planned Parenthood clinic four miles from the CU campus and shot three people dead. In El Paso County, where Colorado Springs is the county seat, Trump won more than half the votes in Novembers election, compared to a third for Clinton.

A pack of around 100 protesters turn up to demonstrate against the event, despite the fast-falling snow. A 17-year-old member of the group Colorado Springs Anti-Fascists says he believed Trump would bring about a rise in neofascism and racism, inspiring moderate people on the political left to take more radical action.

I guess the silver lining, if you can call it that, would be a larger, more radical group of leftists ready to fight the system, says the man, who asked not to be named for fear of being doxxed by Yiannopouloss supporters.

Police
Police and protesters at CU Boulder. Photograph: Abigail Edge

Yiannopoulos has a habit of singling out students at some of his campus talks. In Wisconsin last month, he showed a photograph of a transgender student and told the audience: The way you know hes failed is I can still bang him, according to the Wisconsin-Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

At UCCS, he shows a Facebook post written by one of the protesters outside, along with a photo, and says he would pop him on Breitbart, see how he likes the attention.

You think I cant ruin his Google results? he asks the audience.

Wearing a sparkly purple jacket, like a game show host, Yiannopoulos played to his crowd with jokes about Democrats, transgender people and the feminist writer Roxane Gay, who this week pulled her forthcoming book from Simon & Schuster after they signed a book deal with Yiannopoulos for a reported $250,000 advance. He also ranted about the lying media and low-testosterone losers like the Guardian and FiveThirtyEight.

Like the Boulder event, the audience is dotted with Make America Great Again caps, plus a red-haired man wearing an imitation Native American headdress.

I am very anti-political correctness culture, explains Michael Schorsch, a senior majoring in computer science. I think anybody should be able to wear whatever they want.

Born on the Air Force Academy, Schorsch, 25, is a self-described flaming conservative who has lived in the city most of his life. He used to drive a big truck and owns more than 20 guns.

He says he is excited Trump is staying with what he campaigned to do so far, but concerned that other branches of American government might manage to intervene.

Schorsch says he doesnt agree with some of Yiannopouloss comments on lesbians or gender, though he adds: I think he has every right to say it and its very funny sometimes.

During the talk, titled Why The Democrats Lost the White Working Class, Yiannopoulos reiterates his theory that lesbians can choose their sexuality and accused them of faking hate crimes. He also pokes fun at gender studies students.

Adrianna Conradson is the founder and president of Turning Point USA at the Colorado Springs campus, which as at UC Boulder hosted Yiannopoulos along with the College Republicans.

Tall with straight dark hair, Conradson, 20, moved to Colorado Springs from Phoenix, Arizona, two years ago with her boyfriend, who goes to the Air Force Academy. She likes the city a lot, especially going hiking with her Siberian husky puppy. After she graduates from CU next year she is planning to go to dental school.

I ask her how she feels about a Breibart article by Yiannopoulos which states women would be happier if society could uninvent the washing machine and the pill.

We all have the freedom to have free speech, he can say whatever he wants, but people shouldnt let it bother them so much, she says. I couldnt care less that he said that.

Asked if there is anything she feels fearful about with Trump as president, Conradson answers that she doesnt think so.

Well be putting America first, she adds, quoting the presidents inaugural speech, and a phrase that originated in the 1940s among Nazi sympathizers and came to be accused of connoting antisemitism. Well be investing in our own country instead of others.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jan/28/milo-yiannopoulos-campus-speaking-tour-colorado