Protests during controversial speaker at UW turn violent; man is shot
A 32-year-old man was taken to Harborview Medical Center after being shot in the stomach during protests at the University of Washington on Friday, Jan. 20.
The victim was taken to the hospital Friday, Jan. 20, with life-threatening injuries, and has since been said to be in critical but stable condition.
The College Republicans at UW, a student group on campus, invited Yiannopoulos to speak Inauguration Day. Yiannopoulos, the self-proclaimed “most fabulous supervillain on the Internet,” is known for anti-feminist and anti-immigrant views.
UW senior Alex Franke, a philosophy major, was protesting and is also an EMT. He was one of the first people to reach the shooting victim after being told someone was screaming for a medic.
“They took my hat, a guy threw a thing of paint on me, and a second guy pulled me in and I was beaten in a crowd of them.”
Alex St. Hilaire
“We ran over and there was a guy on the ground just covered in his own blood,” Franke said.
Franke and three others proceeded to apply pressure to the wound and cut off the victim’s shirt to better expose the wound. It was at this time about 20 police officers arrived, Franke said.
UW Police and the Seattle Police Department are continuing an investigation into the matter. UW Police said the shooter and another individual turned themselves in, were taken into custody and have since been released pending further investigation. Police said no suspects remain outstanding.
Chants of “Keep the peace” could be heard from both sides of the protest following the shooting.
Prior to the shooting, the protests had been marked with acts of violence. Paint-filled balloons were thrown toward people trying to attend Yiannopoulos’ speech. Protesters threw punches, shoved cameras and attempted to prevent people from attending the speech.
“The protesters had little regard for the safety of the community they claim to be protecting, and people ended up going home covered in paint and much worse for some, their own blood,” said the College Republicans in a Facebook post.
St. Hilaire had blue paint and blood streaming down his face.
“They took my hat, a guy threw a thing of paint on me, and a second guy pulled me in and I was beaten in a crowd of them,” St. Hilaire said.
Jack St. Hillaire, Alex’s father, said the protesters began hammering away at his son. The two had come peacefully to hear Milo speak, Jack St. Hillaire said.
Alex St. Hilaire said he doesn’t plan on pressing charges.
“They do have a right to protest. It seems odd, but I want to show them by beating me and me not doing anything, that they’re the awful people,” Alex St. Hilaire said. “They’re the intolerant ones that can’t stand people with different viewpoints.”
UW junior Pearl Miller, majoring in women, gender and sexuality studies said she was protesting Yiannopoulos because he stands for islamophobia. She said hate crimes against Muslims have become a huge issue.
“Another big reason is rape culture, which [Yiannopoulos] claims is a lie created by feminists,” Miller said. “It’s horrific because around a quarter of women on campus have felt like they have been touched against their will in the past year.”
Western Junior J.J. Doucette, a political science major, said Yiannopoulos’ event is a celebration of free speech, a right he believes everyone deserves.
“We should all be free to speak our minds even if it offends some people, especially if it offends people,” Doucette said.
Americans have the right to protest, but not when they infringe on the rights of other people, Doucette said.
Doucette said people misrepresent Yiannopoulos, and that protesters who call him a racist, bigot or homophobe haven’t heard him speak.
Western junior Ellen Wilkey, a sociology and microbiology double-major, was at the event to study protest movements and police behavior. Wilkey traveled to the Democratic National Convention last summer with Western’s sociology department to observe protests before the election.
“This is a lot more contentious than [what]I saw at the DNC, it is really antagonistic on both sides,” Wilkey said.