Several dozen protesters have gathered Tuesday night and at least one fight has broken out at a Southern California college before a speech by Milo Yiannopoulos, whose speeches at other campuses have led to violence.
The protesters at the University of California, Fullerton stood outside barricades chanting "Black lives matter," and "Cops and the Klan go hand in hand." Some carried signs that read "immigrants in racists out."
They were mostly peaceful, but a fight broke out between two women and one person set off pepper spray amid the melee, and tensions were growing as the evening event approached. At least seven people were arrested, according to a CSUF spokesperson.
U.S. & World
Stories that affect your life across the U.S. and around the world.
Dozens of police officers, some of them in riot gear, were outside the venue, where about 800 people were expected to show up and listen to Yiannopoulos.
A "Unity Block Party" was held in opposition to the speech, and about 100 students, some in Halloween costumes, attended.
Courtney Yamagiwa, a fifth-year consumer affairs and German student, said she was at the event "to show that our diversity is our strength. We can come together and show the unity that we have and celebrate our community."
"We tried everything that we could do to get him to not come," Yamagiwa said. "I wish he wasn't here because he puts students in danger. It hurts students from being able to get the most they can out of their education, because he's there as kind of a disruption. I don't think that he should be spewing that hate and putting students in danger."
The event comes after a series of other scheduled speeches by Yiannopoulos have fallen through. He called off a weekend appearance in Arizona after a series of threats, and made a fleeting appearance at the famously liberal University of California, Berkeley last month after a weeklong free speech event he helped organize was called off.
Last February, Cal-Berkeley police canceled Yiannopoulos' scheduled speech on campus just before it was to begin, citing safety concerns. A large crowd had gathered outside and the peaceful demonstration turned violent when dozens of black-clad anarchists appeared and attacked some demonstrators and later vandalized some businesses near the campus.
Cal State Fullerton is a largely commuter campus serving about 40,000 students. Unlike Berkeley, the school isn't known as a hotbed of political activism, though there has been an increase in rallies and demonstrations over the last year, campus police Lt. Scot Willey said.
Yiannopoulos was invited to speak by the College Republicans. Brooke Paz, a spokeswoman for the group, said the goal was to draw attention to free speech and the presence of politically conservative students on campus.
"We really just felt left out of the conversations on campus as conservatives and bringing him has really started this conversation about free speech," she said.