UNM forum told controversial speaker has rights - Albuquerque Journal

UNM forum told controversial speaker has rights

A divisive speaker who is visiting the University of New Mexico this week may “spew hate” or make the campus community’s “blood boil,” but it’s his right.

That’s according to three attorneys well-versed with the First Amendment who spoke at an hourlong forum Wednesday that drew dozens in the Student Union Building. The event is tied to a coming event featuring Milo Yiannopoulos, a controversial right-wing provocateur and writer for Breitbart News.

Greg Williams, a First Amendment attorney, said it “stings” when someone uses discriminatory language or advocates for the mistreatment of some societal groups, and one might ask why such speech should be tolerated.

“That’s the price you pay so that your speech isn’t limited when there are people that are not going to agree with what you say,” Williams said.

The attorneys also included Martin Esquivel, who specializes in free speech, and Eliza Bechtold, the legal director with the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico.

Yiannopoulos, who is gay, is scheduled to visit campus Friday as part of his “Dangerous Faggot Tour.” He has written articles for Breitbart with headlines such as “There’s No Hiring Bias Against Women in Tech, They Just Suck at Interviews,” and was permanently banned from Twitter in connection with a harassment campaign that included racist insults directed at actress Leslie Jones.

Nationally, campus communities protest, sometimes violently, when Yiannopoulos visits. Recently, a man was shot during a protest of a Yiannopoulos event at the University of Washington, according to The Seattle Times.

Florence Castillo, a doctoral student in the sociology department, asked if Yiannopoulos’ presence led to violence at other campuses, shouldn’t he be barred from campus?

Again, no, the attorneys said.

“You can’t prohibit someone from speaking based on what you think they’re going to say,” Bechtold said.

And Esquivel encouraged students offended by Yiannopoulos’ speech to respond with their own thoughts in a calm and peaceful way.

“You might not convince the other person, but might be very persuasive to those listening,” he said.

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