CHICAGO — More than 300 people were signed up by Friday afternoon to meet alt-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos with chants and pickets signs when he arrives next month for a speaking event at Patio Theater, 6008 W. Irving Park Road.
"Tours like this and attempts of the far right wing to organize have to be organized against, because we don’t believe waiting for people in positions of power is going to change the situation," said John Beacham, the coordinator of Answer Chicago. "People need to be conscious of right wing and fascist voices and oppose them now. We can't wait for them to keep growing."
Yiannopoulos, a former editor of Breitbart who came to national prominence by inflaming the "Gamergate" campaign targeting female technology bloggers, grew into a leading voice for the "alt-right" white nationalist movement before the 2016 presidential election.
Theater operator Charlie Burns called the booking a "nonpolitical decision," adding that his staff would "take proper security precautions to make sure the tour, fans and any protesters are safe and respected during the event."
But Melissa Basilone, who co-owns four businesses in the 6000 block of Irving Park Road with her husband Joe, said the theater operators were "shooting themselves in the foot" with their controversial decision.
The Basilones offered to host protesters at their Perkolator Cafe, 6032 W. Irving Park Road, posting in the event page that "Hate has no home in the Irving Austin Business District, period."
“We’re just trying to make our neighborhood a welcoming place that’s peaceful, and I think the event represents something threatening to us and the beliefs and values most people in the neighborhood hold," Melissa Basilone said Thursday. "So if people want to peacefully protest, we’ll open our space to host sign-making events.”
Ald. Nicholas Sposato (38th) on Thursday urged anyone upset about the event to avoid it altogether, saying that "protesting would just give them more attention."
But Beacham dismissed the alderman's advice as "nonsense."
"We have decades of proof that ignoring racism and fascism doesn’t work," the organizer said. "Shutting them down is the only thing that works, especially in a country like this, where racism is such a huge part of our history."
Protest organizers have urged their supporters to leave negative reviews on the theater's Facebook and Yelp pages, and by Friday, many had done so.
Other activists have urged followers to take their complaints straight to the theater.
Hatred has no home here! Call the Patio Theatre and demand they cancel alt-right bigot Milo Yiannopoulos pic.twitter.com/WajMKWNvgk— Chicago Rising (@ChicagoRising) October 13, 2017