Putting it together: Questions remain after UW protest shooting
Warning: The above video of the UW protest may be offensive and graphic to some readers.
After a controversial appearance by alt-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, the protest it sparked at the University of Washington, and a shooting that put a man in the hospital, many are still asking: What happened?
Outside Yiannopoulos’ event at the University of Washington’s Kane Hall, the crowd tensely mixed with Trump supporters, Yiannopoulos fans, and anti-Trump protesters. At times it became violent. Eventually, a 34-year-old man was shot among the chaos.
Amateur video taken at the event seems to show an altercation between the victim and the shooter. It is difficult to draw conclusions from one video among a mass of people, but at first glance, it appears that the eventual victim assaulted the shooter before being shot. Though a witness at the scene told KIRO Radio that Yiannopoulos supporters were spraying pepper spray at the crowd.
We were just standing in the middle, and Milo supporters started spraying everyone with their own mace, and there was a boom, and I saw the guy a few feet away and he had blood gushing out of his stomach.
The suspect fled the scene after the incident but turned himself in later that night. Another man accompanied him and both were temporarily taken into custody before being released early the next morning.
The alleged shooter told UW police that he shot in self-defense, and believe the victim to be a white supremacist, The Seattle Times reports. The shooter reportedly told police that he was assaulted. Witnesses to the incident — and friends of the victim — argue otherwise, noting that the victim was a Bernie Sanders supporter and even has an anti-hate tattoo. Friends of the victim report that the man was not aggressive, according to the Times.
The Times also reports that the alleged shooter sent the following Facebook message to the Breitbart News editor an hour before the incident:
“Hey Milo. im outside in line to your UW event.
I got sucker punched (he was a bit limp wristed) and someone jacked my #MAGA hat.
Anyway for me to get a replacement signed by you?
The General Defense Committee of the Industrial Workers of the World released a statement following the shooting, reporting that the victim was a member of their organization — an anti-racist, anti-fascist organization. IWW stated that their member was there to protest Yiannopoulos’ hateful speech, and pointed out that firearms are prohibited on the UW campus.
An online crowdfunding page was started by IWW in support of the victim. Within two days it surpassed its $40,000 goal.
The shooting and alleged assault are among many altercations among the mass of Trump supporters, Yiannopoulos fans, and anti-Trump protesters. As KIRO Radio’s John Curley relates:
If you walked up to get a picture of the protesters, they would grab your camera, pull you in, throw you on the ground and beat you up. It took a lot of guts for anyone who dared wear a Make America Great Again hat because the protesters didn’t like the that, so they run up and tear it off your head, throw it on the ground and rip it up…
A crowd protesting Yiannopoulos’ event linked arms and blocked entrance into Kane Hall at the University of Washington. Curley was among the crowd waiting to get in, but never did. Police stood behind the line of protesters, and in the end, no one got into the event aside from a crowd of 200 VIP attendees. That audience inside was eventually told to hide any pro-Trump hats, buttons, etc. and were snuck out a back door following the shooting.
KIRO Radio’s Josh Kerns was also present, reporting from the protest. He said that there was “virtually no crowd control” by police and protesters and attendees clashed from time-to-time.
Criticism of the protest, security
Even before the shooting occurred, the University of Washington was criticized for letting things go as far as they did. Professor James Pfeifer, who was there to protest, told KIRO Radio that the Yiannopoulos event should have been canceled as he stood among the rowdy crowd.
“This should not have happened on a campus, not on inauguration day, not in this climate,” Professor Pfeifer said. “This could have been prevented. You could have seen this coming a mile away.”
“(We have) Trump supporters and Clinton supporters in our classes and we encourage dialogue,” he said. “This is not dialogue. This is a guy that is going to show pictures of people and harass people and call for violence against our students. That is not dialogue. That is not acceptable.”