NEW YORK (Reuters) - Dozens of right-wing demonstrators, including far-right commentator Milo Yiannopoulos, gathered in New York on Thursday to protest a university's decision to invite a Palestinian-American activist to deliver its graduation speech next week.
The City University of New York's (CUNY) Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy, which will have its commencement on Tuesday, described liberal, Muslim speaker Linda Sarsour on its website as a "powerful public health and social justice" leader.
Protesters in midtown Manhattan chanted and marched under rainfall to criticize the school's choice of Sarsour, 37, an organizer of this year's Women's March on Washington who has drawn fire from conservatives for her opposition to Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, among other issues.
Yiannopoulos, 32,said she should be allowed to speak but should be held accountable for actions he considered anti-American.
"Working underneath all of that sweaty polyester is a mind that hates America," Yiannopoulos said of Sarsour, who wears a hijab head covering.
A representative for Sarsour did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Demonstrations against both liberal and conservative speakers on university campuses has been a growing trend in the United States.
In April, conservative commentator Ann Coulter said she had scrapped plans to speak at the University of California at Berkeley in defiance of campus officials, who had barred her original engagement out of concerns about inciting violent protests. [nL1N1HY1DV]
In February, protesters at Berkeley started fires, broke windows and clashed with police, forcing Yiannopoulos, then a senior editor for the conservative Breitbart News website, to call off his appearance.
Yiannopoulos was permanently banned from Twitter for abuse and harassment of Saturday Night Live actress Leslie Jones in July 2016.
(Reporting by Gina Cherelus; Additional reporting by Laila Kearney in New York; Editing by Andrew Hay)