How controversial is Breitbart Tech editor Milo Yiannopoulos? Controversial enough that his appearance at the University of Alabama requires security that costs seven times what normally would be anticipated for similar events staged at the university.
On Monday, Yiannopoulos is scheduled to give a speech at an event sponsored by the University of Alabama’s College Republicans as part of his cross-country “The Dangerous Faggot Tour.”
The University of Alabama, however, has – without explicitly expressing opposition to the event – gone out of its way to prevent the event from happening.
Gerald Fraas, treasurer of the University of Alabama College Republicans and who is spearheading the Yiannopoulos event, told Breitbart News their initial estimate was around $800-1,200. After “a small conversation” involving a University of Alabama Police Department official, the price of security for the event was then quoted as “probably” around $4,600-4,800.
However on Wednesday, Fraas received a notice from University of Alabama Police Lt. Jeff Nabors, the special event planning coordinator of the university’s police department, saying there would be a new price tag: $6,955.
Breitbart News has obtained a copy of this email.
Nathaniel White, the chairman of the College Republican Federation of Alabama, the organization overseeing the 20 College Republican chapters in Alabama, told Breitbart News they weren’t seeking a “security handout” and expected a fee, but not such a high amount.
“This event was set up months ago and we were told that there were going to be security fees and that we would be responsible for a few officers,” White said. “We’re fine with that. Don’t get me wrong, we’re not asking for a security handout or anything like that. We’re used to doing this at several other events throughout the state.”
The College Republican group appears to be a victim of a tactic often used by colleges and universities to force cancellations of some events, which is to impose untenable “security” fees on a particular event. The tactic, however, according to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), is unconstitutional because those security fees “function as a tax on protected speech.”
“I know this happens on a number of college campuses,” White said. “I guess it’s one of those things you never really think is going to happen to you until it does. This definitely happened to us.”
White claims the University of Alabama Police Department raised the fee after series of “microaggression protests” by liberal groups around campus over the past several days. White said his organization was “miffed” about the initial nearly $5,000 fee, but shrugged it off and offered to pay it.
“This is not a situation that should be happening and we feel like this is the university’s way of trying to discourage us from hosting this event at all,” White said.
“The University police have actually been very uncooperative,” he added. “Honestly, they’re being very horrible and unprofessional with communications. They haven’t indicated if it’s something that needs to be prepaid or if it’s something that needs a deposit or payment. They’ve offered no real concrete way of dealing with this.”
Regardless if the event is cancelled or if the group relents and pays the $7,000 fee, Fraas said he considers it a denial of freedom of speech.
“Whether the University just shuts us down or forces us to pay a prohibitive security fee, they deny us our freedom of speech, and they deny the entire student body the right to hear Milo’s message,” Fraas said. “No matter your opinion on the speaker, this is an act against our liberty, a Heckler’s veto on speech. We follow the rules of civil discourse, Milo’s opponents threaten violence, so we get assessed an exorbitant fee and get shut down. It seems to me it’s the University’s responsibility to provide an environment in which civil discourse is encouraged and the rights of all are protected, not just those with whom they agree.”
Yiannopoulos also acknowledged the tactic, but argued it would backfire by giving him more attention.
“College administrations, with a few honorable exceptions, will stop at nothing to torpedo my talks, and slapping extortionate security and event fees on students is easily among the lower, more slippery tools in their arsenal. I’m not sure what they hope to accomplish, beyond getting themselves in trouble and driving yet more attention to me.”
White added that his College Republican chapter’s adviser has reached out to the University Police with an offer to negotiate and have gotten no response. In addition to reaching out to the University of Alabama Police, White’s organization also sought a response from the school’s administration and has yet to get a response.
Earlier on Thursday, Breitbart News requested a comment from the University of Alabama’s interim director of media relations Chris Bryant and university communications specialist Richard LeComte. After not getting a response from Bryant or LeComte, Breitbart News sought comment from University of Alabama Vice President of Financial Affairs Dr. Lynda Gilbert, whose division oversees the university’s police department.
White said he had asked Sen. Jeff Sessions’ (R-AL) office to also intervene in the dispute.
“Sessions’ office is very understanding of the situation,” White said and added he is hoping a representative from his office would “contact the university.”
White told Breitbart News he didn’t personally expect any problems at the Yiannopoulos event and that he heard some groups were looking to avoid the event altogether because any disruption would “play into exactly what Milo wants.”
The University of Alabama College Republicans have acquired legal counsel to assist them in the dispute with the University of Alabama. On Monday, John Eidsmoe, senior counsel for the Foundation for Moral Law of Montgomery, AL acting in conjunction with the Washington, DC-based Alliance Defending Freedom, sent a cease and desist letter to Michael I. Spearing, chief counsel for the University of Alabama, which insisted the fees constituted a “heckler’s veto” and was described as an infringement on the University of Alabama College Republican’s First Amendment rights.
Breitbart News has obtained a copy of that letter.
Yiannopoulos is scheduled to make a similar appearance at the University of Alabama’s in-state rival Auburn University on Friday. At Auburn, which is 160 miles away from Tuscaloosa on the opposite side of the state, the College Republican chapter is responsible for a $1,400 security fee.
The Yiannopoulos event has faced backlash from within student body at the University of Alabama. Last month Alabama student newspaper Crimson White opinion editor Kyle Campbell decried Yiannopoulos’ appearance.
“[D]isinvite him because it’s the right thing to do,” Campbell wrote in a September 19 op-ed. “Disinvite him because his rhetoric incites violence – a violence that will likely harm the most vulnerable students on our campus. Disinvite him to prove that the Capstone Creed is not a series of empty words, but a declaration of standards that all students must uphold. Our administration must play its part in stemming this nation’s rolling tide of hatred, and that if that means banning a 31-year-old misogynistic child from campus, then so be it.
Follow Jeff Poor on Twitter @jeff_poor