Provocative Speakers On Campus: How Cal State Fullerton Successfully Hosted Milo Yiannopoulos

 

Scot Willey
California State University Fullerton Police Department 
Captain

 

 

One of the most important and current issues facing law enforcement today is our ability to safely host a provocative speaker.  Campus law enforcement, in particular, has seen this extreme challenge in its many facets.  Several of these events have resulted in injuries to citizens and police, extensive damage to property, costs of safety in the millions, and lawsuits filed from both sides.  At Cal State Fullerton Police Department, we faced all of these challenges after our department was notified that our campus Republican group wanted to host provocative speaker, Milo Yiannopoulos, on Halloween night in 2017.  Yiannopoulos has been a polarizing figure in current politics and his appearance, or cancellation of, has led to several mass protests that exploded into violence.

Cal State Fullerton is no different than any other campus in the country.  We’ve all dealt with protests for decades.  However, as we do in every aspect of law enforcement, we have to adapt to the current trends that are occurring around the country and constantly alter our approach to these incidents.  Cal State Fullerton Police Department spent months learning from others and planning our event accordingly.  We knew immediately that we would not be able to handle this event alone.  Although we were in charge up to, during, and after the event, we knew we would not be successful unless we partnered with many different agencies/departments, inside and outside of the Cal State University system.  The collaboration we have been building over the years with our local law enforcement partners and all of the divisions within the university, led to the successful planning and execution which resulted in a positive outcome.

Our command staff was involved in dozens of meetings and presentations that drove that collaboration.  We were supported by our university president and cabinet in all of our security methodologies as we were able to discuss all of what we had learned from other incidents.  We were joined by 275 Police Officers (including Horses, Bomb Dogs, Helicopters, Campus Managers, etc.) from over 30 different local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies to build an overwhelming force to quell any serious unlawful activities.  We learned many approaches that worked well and many that we would need to improve upon when we host another provocative speaker.

 

Takeaways

  • Importance of Adapting to Current Trends
  • Collaboration Within and Outside Your Community is Key
  • Overwhelming Presence as a Tactic

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