Last Friday, just after Donald Trump was sworn in as America’s first alt-right president, Milo Yiannopolous addressed the University of Washington College Republicans in an auditorium on Red Square (named for bricks, not politics), in the heart of campus. Left-wing activists had tried unsuccessfully to persuade the university administration to cancel the talk because Yiannopolous’s views violated campus speech regulations and because his visit would pose a heightened risk of hostility and even violence. A petition supporting this view garnered nearly 5,000 signatures.
But it failed. University President, Ana Marie Cauce, whose brother, Cesar Cauce, was murdered in the infamous Ku Klux Klan massacre in Greensboro, NC in 1979, argued that her brother’s memory demanded, in fact, that she permit the free exchange of ideas that Yiannopolous’ appearance would generate. I’m not quite certain of her logic, but in light of the tragic outcome of Friday’s protest it seems darkly ironic.
Add to this that Yiannopolous has loudly advocated the right to bear arms on college campuses (excerpts from his talks on this topic are included in the video, which Ronnie Barkan produced). One could argue that he stoked the fires that raged on Friday with tweets like this one:
“Thought there were riots in D.C. today? Wait until the Milo event tonight at @UW.”
One must ask, why would a university officer whose own brother was murdered by right-wing crazies permit a campus event with a speaker who advocated bringing guns to campus? I’d also like to ask President Cauce what lessons, if any, she may’ve learned from this horrible incident.
While around 200 people managed to enter Kane Hall to hear him speak, 1,000 protesters milled around outside. The majority were Antifa (anti-fascist) activists sprinkled with a handful of pro-Trump, pro-Breitbart, alt-right troublemakers. Some of them poured paint on the heads of the left-wing demonstrators. Tension was extremely high.
The police milled on the periphery of Red Square and didn’t intervene in the various fistfights that broke out among the crowd. But then suddenly a shot rang out. Later, video footage and still photographs would show a short, heavy-set male with Asian facial characteristics wearing a yellow baseball cap. I’ve posted still photos of the shooter both before and during the shooting. Some protesters say he had torn down signs and provoked fights before the shooting. During the fateful prior moments he’s seen waving a cloth in the face of the demonstrators. From the video, it’s not possible to see his hands clearly. But onlookers say that he brandished a gun and was rushed by an antifa activist who saw it in his hands. The shooter then fires and the activist falls to the ground wounded critically in the stomach.
Only then did police rush to the scene. The victim was taken to the hospital with “life-threatening injuries.” As of today, he is now in stable condition. But the authorities have not released the names of either the victim or the shooter. The University police, under direction of the King County prosecuting attorney, Dan Satterberg, released the shooter. Media reports say he claimed self-defense, though it’s difficult to see how brandishing and firing a gun among hundreds of unarmed people constitutes an act of self-defense.
This is, by the way, the same prosecutor who, under fierce Jewish community pressure, pursued first-degree murder charges against the mentally-ill Pakistani-American who attacked the Seattle Jewish federation and killed one staff member and injured several others. Satterberg refused to consider mitigating charges that acknowledged the killer’s mental illness. So we know Satterberg can be aggressive when he chooses.
The incident is a nightmare for the University given it’s refusal to consider altering the plans for Yiannopolous’s appearance. In effect, it permitted a public health menace on its grounds and then was forced to pay the price for its faulty decision.
The Seattle media have not been aggressive in asking questions of either the University, police, or prosecutors. Why would a man who shot and almost killed someone go free? Unless the prosecutor is trying to tamp down the incident and hope it goes away. We will see if charges are filed and how severe they are. If they are lower-level then we will know for sure this is the case.
I’m looking forward to the Seattle activist community speaking up more loudly than they have thus far. The prosecutor’s indecision calls for a protest at his office.