It’s been nearly two weeks since a controversial speaker drew large protests to the University of Washington campus, protests during which one person was shot. However, the UW seems no closer to finding consensus on what to make of the shooting and, more broadly, what kind of speech should and shouldn’t be allowed on campus.
On Monday, a group of protesters gathered at University of Washington’s Red Square to oppose a “UW Wall Building Association” event. As it became obvious that the event to celebrate President Donald Trump’s victory was not going to take place, the crowd of roughly 150 people started walking towards Gerberding Hall, where they asked to talk with UW president Ana Mari Cauce, and the university president agreed to meet on the hall’s steps. There, she was confronted once again with questions that are consuming the campus: Where does one draw the line between free speech and hate speech, and who should get to decide?
Hoisting signs that read “Fuck Trump” and “UW Love Immigrants,” protesters asked Cauce—a Cuban immigrant herself—to take responsibility for the events following Breitbar News editor Milo Yiannopoulous’ appearance at Kane Hall Jan. 20, when a man was shot by an alleged Milo fan outside the venue.
“I take responsibility. There’s no question,” the Cauce replied, saying she was scared that night. “Anything that happens on this campus is ultimately my responsibility. I’m truly sorry for anyone that was hurt on Friday on campus.” However, Cauce stopped short of saying that Yiannaopoulous should not have been allowed to speak, which frustrated those in the crowd who argued that she had enabled hate speech on campus by allowing the event to happen.
Protesters took the opportunity to show their concern regarding other safety issues on campus too, complaining that the university administration hasn’t taken any action regarding reports of students cyberbullying undocumented classmates. Cauce referred to the UW student conduct code and said that no links between the information she has about these cases and an actual cause for expulsion has been proven yet. The crowd said that they have presented names, social media screenshots and photos, and the president put an end to the conversation.
After Cauce left, protesters chanted “Hey hey, ho ho. Islamphobia has got to go” and stayed for about 30 more minutes outside Gerberding Hall. Some of them gave short speeches asking for concrete solutions from the university administration. “We’re not allowing fascist and Neonazis on campus. We want to make UW safe again,” one of them said.
But before talking with Cauce, some of protesters recognized a student who had filmed previous protests allegedly for “doxxing”—when someone looks for an individual’s personal identifying information online and makes it public for diverse purposes including harassment, extortion and online shaming—and decided to confront him. Multiple sources said that the student was affiliated with the organization of the Milo Yiannopoulos’ appearance held at Kane Hall Jan. 20.
The student was standing in front of Kane Hall by himself. As protesters approached him, the university police officers created a barrier between him and the main group of protesters with their bicycles.
Media tried to reach the student for comments but a group of protesters with scarfs on their faces covered cameras with their hands. “You’re giving this Neonazi a platform,” one of them said. Some cameramen responded that they were just doing their job.