Alumni reserve Yiannopoulos tickets, leave half of seats empty in protest
MANAGING NEWS EDITOR
When Milo Yiannopoulos arrived in Newark on Monday night for his “Dangerous Faggot” speaking tour, his event in Mitchell Hall had been publicized as “sold out.” Several university alumni, however, knew that more than half of those seats would remain empty.
According to university spokeswoman Andrea Boyle-Tippett, university security counted the number of attendees at the event. Boyle-Tippett stated in an email message that 280 people attended the “sold out” event, which left roughly 59 percent of Mitchell Hall’s 684 seats empty.
A group of alumni, led by a source who wished to remain anonymous, reserved a large amount of tickets for the event with the intent of leaving them empty. Their protest against Yiannopoulos, a controversial political commentator and editor for Breitbart News Network, may be responsible for severely decreasing the event’s attendance.
The anonymous source reserved 106 individual tickets for the event, each under a different Ticketmaster account. The source’s 106 tickets comprised nearly 16 percent of Mitchell Hall’s seating.
An alumnus of the class of 2009, the source chose to remain anonymous because he feared for his safety and does not want to become a target of harassment for Yiannopoulos’ supporters.
“I don’t need these people making trouble for me,” the source said. “I’m worried about the unhinged element of the alt-right — including Milo and his audience — stalking, harassing and threatening me as they have done to others they don’t like.”
The source, unlike other participants in the protest, still lives in Newark.
Britta Peterson, a 2005 graduate, reserved 30 tickets to the event, without the intention of attending the event. She said that if given the chance, she would do the same thing over again.
“I actually thought it was a brilliant idea,” Peterson said. “Protesting I think, at this point, has become a little bit ineffective. Especially with someone like Milo, a lot of the stuff that he does really is for attention. I thought it was a very good idea, a very peaceful way of not feeding into all of the attention seeking that he does, but still getting the point across.”
This mentality can be found among other alumni who reserved tickets without the intent to show up. Steven Fox, a 2008 graduate, reserved around 50 tickets, according to his estimates.
Fox said that the event was initially hosted on Eventbrite, which allowed him to reserve up to thirty tickets at once, on one account. The group of alumni got that first event page sold out “within a couple of hours,” Fox said.
This Eventbrite page was taken down, and all reservations through Eventbrite were considered invalid. Fox then reserved tickets again through the Ticketmaster site.
“I know a lot of this was talking about free speech, and a lot of people were saying that it’s cool because it’s free speech,” Fox said. “And I think that’s kind of a cop out. Is it right to call people freaks or idiots, just for being who they are? No.”
“I respect his right to say it,” Fox said. “I would never call for him to be arrested or anything like that, but I think we need to come together and recognize that that has no place in our society.”
Jennifer Lambe, a communication professor and expert in First Amendment rights, said the tactic of reserving seats with the deliberate intention to leave them empty is a form of protest.
“From a legal standpoint, what they did is not censorship,” Lambe said. “Censorship is when the government acts in some way to stop expression from happening, or to punish the expression after the fact for any harm caused. “
Every little effort with the protest counted for something, Alex Martinez said. A 2011 graduate, Martinez reserved “between ten and 20 tickets” over the course of several days.
Although Martinez had to go through the work of making a new Ticketmaster account for each individual ticket, he still thinks that the protest was a success. Each account required a new email and password. He faked several of the email accounts.
“From the way [the event] was described as being ‘like half empty,’ it means there were less people who were able to show support for someone who I think is a sociopath,” Martinez said.
Alise Morales, Class of 2012, reserved between five to ten tickets.
“I posted a status about it on Facebook and me and my other comedy friends all had fun reserving tickets under stupid aliases,” Morales stated in an email message. “I fully expected all of those reservations to be thrown out since they were so obviously fake.” She reserved one ticket under the name “Donald Trump’s B-hole.”
“Hard to say a concrete number of tickets that were reserved this way,” she said. While she does not view the protest as an “organized effort,” Morales said that her Facebook status about reserving seats out of protest had “like 50 likes and 30-plus comments.”
Daniel Foltz and Andrew Lipman, co-chairs of the Delaware Federation of College Republicans, have not yet responded to The Review’s request for comment.
When asked to comment on the ticket-reserving protest for his event, Yiannopoulos responded in an email message with the following statement:
“No, just faggotry.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: The F-word is used in this story without censorship in order to offer a full report. The Review condemns the use of this slur but also wanted to convey the content of interviewee comments as clearly and accurately as possible.