FARGO-A planned appearance by a speaker from the alt-right publication Breitbart on the campus of North Dakota State University has been cancelled due to concerns that protesters and counter-protesters of the Dakota Access Pipeline may appear and cause disruption or violence.
Milo Yiannopoulos, a public speaker and technology editor for Breitbart News, was scheduled to appear Dec. 16 at NDSU, an event first announced in August.
But the appearance was cancelled, Breitbart reported, because NDSU was going to impose a "large security fee increase."
However, a spokeswoman for NDSU said the security fee was not increased in response to any security concerns.
"The security fee that was presented to the organizers is standard for these types of events," said Sadie Rudolph, a spokeswoman for NDSU, in an email Sunday, Dec. 4.
Jamal Omar, an NDSU student and an organizer for the event, said it became clear that added security would be required to deal with protests and counter-protests that could escalate into violence.
"We were able to afford five officers, but we couldn't afford more," he said. "It would have been way more than five officers could handle."
Yiannopoulos, frequently described as a provocateur, has criticized homosexuals, although he is openly gay, and has been a critic of Islam. He calls himself a "cultural libertarian" and "free speech fundamentalist" who rails against "political correctness."
Last year, Yiannopoulos, a British citizen and Donald Trump supporter, embarked on a campus speaking tour called "The Dangerous Faggot Tour." Some of his appearances were cancelled, while others were disrupted by hecklers.
"Normally I have no problem being shot in the face by masked assailants but in this case we couldn't risk student safety," Yiannopoulos said in an email to The Forum Sunday. "Anyone know where I can buy a water cannon?"
The "water cannon" quip was an apparent reference to reports that law enforcement officials turned fire hoses on some Dakota Access Pipeline protesters.
Omar said he didn't want to single out protesters from any certain group. "There's only a few bad apples that spoil the bunch," he said. "We received a lot of harassment. We didn't want to get anyone hurt."
Omar said NDSU had been very helpful in helping to stage the event, initially charging $1,500, a fee that covered rental of two rooms, information technology support and five security officers.
"That was very reasonable," he said. "They were very, very fair to us."
Vice chairman of the North Dakota College Republicans, Omar said he actually was not a fan of Yiannopoulos and disagreed with most of his expressed views. He said his motive for inviting the speaker was to serve as a "cautionary tale" to illustrate the harms that can come from intolerant speech.
Many of Yiannopoulos' comments seem calculated to spark controversy-and therefore attract attention, Omar said.
That "edgy" quality seems well received by many Millennials, he added.
"It's not about what you say," Omar said. "It's about the controversy you make. You don't get famous unless you get people to talk about you."