Breitbart News editor Milo Yiannopoulos' divisive speaking tour, provoking shouting matches and fistfights among college-age fans and foes, has now degenerated to the level of gunfire. A man was in critical condition Saturday after being shot outside a University of Washington hall prior to the controversial far-right commentator's speech there Friday night.
The 32-year-old victim was rushed to a hospital for emergency surgery after being shot in the stomach, police said. A person of interest in the shooting turned himself in to University of Washington police, and was held for questioning.
A police official told the Seattle Times late Saturday that the man who fired the gun said he had fired in self-defense and that the man he shot was "some type of white supremacist." The suspect was released without charges pending further investigation.
On Friday, black-hooded protesters were shown in videos sparking assaults outside Kane Hall on campus. Police had blocked the entrance after scuffles broke out over the Breitbart editor's sold-out appearance.
When a group of protesters arrived after a downtown rally — where police had seized wooden dowels, homemade shields, flares, hammers and other items from masked people in the crowd — tensions increased. Protesters "began throwing bricks and paint toward police and others in the crowd," police said in a statement.
"Seattle has a long, proud tradition of speaking up and speaking out, but we will not tolerate violence of any kind, " said Seattle Mayor Ed Murray.
In a similar statement, Gov. Jay Inslee said, "I condemn in the strongest possible terms any act of violence, no matter in what name it's being waged." The Democrat added that the freedom of speech applies "equally to all of us — even to the people whose ideas we find abhorrent."
Yiannopoulos, after hearing of the shooting, chose to go on with his speech. He told the Seattle audience he didn't know if the victim died or not, but, Breitbart quoted him saying, "if I stopped my event now, we are sending a clear message that they can stop our events by killing people. I am not prepared to do that."
The speech took place hours after President Trump took the oath of office in Washington. Stephen K. Bannon, former chairman of Breitbart News, is a senior advisor to the president.
A Thursday night appearance at Washington State University in Pullman was canceled due to weather. Protests led to cancellation last week of another planned appearance, at UC Davis.
In a Facebook post Saturday, the British-born writer and public speaker wrote, "I don't know why Ana Mari Cauce, president of the University of Washington, is covering up the crimes of left-wing protesters. But she claims that other than the shooting, last night's protests were 'peaceful.' A ludicrous, easily disproven lie. Why bother?"
Yiannopoulos was banned by Twitter last January after he sent disparaging tweets about "Ghostbusters" actress Leslie Jones, one of them referring to her as a "black dude." The African American actress became the target of a flood of harassing tweets, some of them racist, and Twitter concluded that Yiannopoulos had violated its rules "prohibiting participating in or inciting targeted abuse of individuals."
Yiannopoulos uses a derogatory term for gays in the title of his speaking tour, and his speeches intentionally push the envelope.
"The thing I most hate about the left," he said at one appearance, "is that they want to stop us laughing – to prescribe which jokes are OK and which are not OK to make in public and to draw artificial lines around certain subjects. I find all sorts of inappropriate things funny. Islam, tyrannies, AIDS. These are all innately hilarious things. Now and again I even enjoy a good rape joke — especially if I'm the butt of it."
Anderson is a special correspondent.
10:25 p.m.: This article was updated to report that the gunman claimed he fired in self-defense.