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UNM tries to levy ‘free speech fine,’ GOP group says

Milo Yiannopoulos

Milo Yiannopoulos

Copyright © 2017 Albuquerque Journal

The University of New Mexico has told the school’s College Republicans organization that it must pay a $3,400 security charge for a scheduled Jan. 27 campus appearance by Milo Yiannopoulos, a controversial speaker, provocateur and writer for right-wing Breitbart News.

Marina Herrera, president of UNM College Republicans, described the charge as a “free speech fine” and challenged the university’s action. She said the administration is simply attempting to censor a controversial speaker – a claim denied by a UNM spokeswoman.

Herrera said the group was informed about the cost of the event Friday evening despite planning the event for months. She said the organization doesn’t have access to that kind of money.

“To wait this long to inform us is either poor management or a deliberate attempt to silence speech at a public university,” Herrera told the Journal in a statement. “Neither possibility is acceptable and we continue to hope that we can come to a workable solution.”

UNM spokeswoman Dianne Anderson said the group was given an estimated cost Jan. 10.

Anderson said the university is treating the Yiannopoulos event the same way it treats all campus events sponsored by student groups. She referred to a university policy that says a group hosting the event is “responsible for security costs based on the number of police and/or security officers required and the length of event, program or rental.”

On Tuesday night, Anderson couldn’t immediately provide security charges for other speaking events on campus. She did say “additional security” could be needed at the Yiannopoulos event, based on planned protests at UNM and previous protests at other campuses.

The College Republicans have been given an invoice for $3,400 that is due three days before the event. It’s unclear whether the event will be canceled if the student group fails to come up with the money.

At least one group at UNM, The Red Nation, has announced plans on its Facebook page, saying its goal is to “deny Milo a platform at UNM by taking the room, the stage, and the mic.”

Yiannopoulos, who according to The Associated Press is permanently banned from Twitter in connection with a harassment campaign against “Ghostbusters” actress Leslie Jones, is speaking at colleges nationwide as part of his “Dangerous Faggot Tour.”

He is scheduled to speak at the UNM Student Union Building from 6 to 9 p.m. Jan. 27, according to a Facebook page for the event.

Yiannopoulos has written articles for Breitbart with headlines such as “There’s No Hiring Bias Against Women in Tech, They Just Suck at Interviews,” and “Why Equality and Diversity Departments Should Only Hire Rich, Straight White Men.” He also wrote that “America has a Muslim problem” and that Islam around the world rules through fear and terror.

Yiannopoulos has been greeted with protests on many campuses. A Yiannopoulos event was canceled Saturday at the University of California at Davis after hours of protest.

The Associated Press reported that the school’s interim chancellor, Ralph J. Hexter, said that he was disappointed at the event’s cancellation and that “a university is at its best when it listens to and critically engages opposing views, especially ones that many of us find upsetting or even offensive.”

Milo Yiannopoulos, a controversial speaker, provocateur and writer for right-wing Breitbart News, is scheduled to come to the University of New Mexico on Jan. 27. The university is charging the student group hosting the event $3,400 in security costs.