A week later, my eyes were again drawn to the cement beneath my feet. Scrawlings of "Shame on you Emory Republicans", "Milo is a misogynist, and racist", "Milo does not speak for Emory", and "Protest starts at 6:30 tonight!" I made my way back to my desktop and quickly searched for background information on Milo Yiannpoulos. What I found was a highly active and controversial Twitter feed and conservative blog. While I disagreed with most of his viewpoints, I could tell he wasn't lacking in entertainment value. I quickly decided to make a stop at both the protest and Milo's talk that night. I looked forward to a spirited evening.
As I approached White Hall, the site of the impending clash of ideals, I noticed the lack of shouts and political debate. I saw a line of 8 students all dressed in black with signs saying, "Shame on college Racists", "Liberation for all, not assimilation for some", and "Hate speech has no place here." Every once in a while, someone would approach the line of protesters and engage in a discussion. They would exchange quiet words, and move on their way. After 10 minutes of relative inaction, I made my way into the building.
Inside was far more exciting. A writhing crowd of expectant students dotted with "Make America Great Again" hats was anxiously awaiting entry into the auditorium. Most talk revolved around the size of the inside crowd and the lack thereof in the protesters outside the glass doors. "That's it for the protesters," proclaimed one guy with a smirk. I began to assess the crowd assuming I'd fit in as a white male, but I saw an unexpected diversity from female to black to Asian. A frightening prospect for me if this varied crowd was all hear holding support for Trump on their sleeves.I kept quiet myself, deciding to observe rather than let my own political ideals be known.
Soon everyone was squeezed into the auditorium until we reached fire capacity. With a total of over 250 attendees, many including myself were forced to listen in from the hall or in a neighboring auditorium where someone quickly projected a stream. Like some right-winged concert, everyone chattered until the rock star made his appearance. Milo entered to cheers and applause from most everyone and wasted no time in throwing out controversial commentary.
For an hour an a half, Milo took any questions on everything political with a comedian's candor. Referring to a pizzeria who wasn't serving a homosexual wedding, "Pizza at a fucking wedding? Only dykes." When asked whether he was ever doubted as being truly gay himself, "All the fucking time. But I wouldn't have put myself through all these scuffed knees just for show." To Milo political correctness was, "stopping yourself from saying the truth and saying the untrue to respect feelings." Muslim immigration needed to be stopped. Gays "fucking hate lesbians and feminists." He believes, "there is no epidemic of rape on college campuses" and "no one leaves a consent class thinking, I think I'll skip raping someone now."
With each unfiltered an abrasive answer, the similarities between Milo and his favorite "cultural candidate" Donald Trump became obvious. Each unashamed of any words that blast from their mouths, each playing to a crowd they understand all too well. And unfortunately, each amassing large numbers of followers when it was perhaps least expected.
Once Milo finished his speech and Q & A, he distributed chalk to the raucous crowd. Everyone marched to the center of campus and proceeded to paint their views upon the ground. Milo initiated with a large "Dangerous Faggot Tour, Milo 2016." Others followed suit with their own scribblings like "Make America Great Again" and "Global Warming=Chinese Scam" among others. Under the gold hue of campus lamps, a light drizzle promised to dull all the messages by morning.
I walked back to my scooter a mixed bag of emotions and questions. When did the Trump supporters outnumber the campus protestors by hundreds? They were not all cranky white dudes from the country, so what does that mean for the election? I agreed with the core of some of Milo's views, but was mildly disturbed with his delivery and couldn't stomach many of his more radical tirades. The PC campus bubble was shattered, I was forced to think. No political ideologies were changed drastically on my end, but I learned from watching and talking to protestors and protested alike. I learned there is value in listening to every opinion. I learned that there is a frighteningly passionate and diverse crowd behind an offensive and unpredictable Donald Trump. I learned that chalk can create quite the stir.