By Kate Ariano
History did not repeat itself here at the University of Connecticut on Tuesday, April 9 when conservative speakers from Turning Point USA came to campus for violence was completely avoided this time around.
Conservative speaker Lucian Wintrich encountered a much different fate when he hosted “It’s O.K. to Be White” at UConn in 2017 and was arrested after a scuffle happened with an audience member who took his papers from the podium.
The trio that took the stage this time consisted of TPUSA founder Charlie Kirk, Director of Communications Candace Owens, as well as YouTube personality and talk show host Dave Rubin.
The group was shocked to find out that a professor had allegedly been telling students to reserve tickets, so supporters of the conservative non-profit organization could not attend.
“She can counter the ideas, you know, that would be fine,” Rubin said. “Imagine if in this class, although I guess in an English class, it wouldn’t have even been applicable, but imagine if she would have said you know what, here are five things Charlie Kirk has said, here are five things Candace Owens has said, and let me rebut these things.”
UConn spokesperson Stephanie Reitz said in an email that if the comments were in fact made by the professor, it would not have been an attempt to infringe on students’ First Amendment rights, as her encouragement for a nonviolent protest would be protected under her First Amendment rights, as well.
Despite what may or may not have been said, UConn freshman and member of the TPUSA UConn chapter, Zach Files, said he thought the event was successful.
“I volunteered for the event to help out and promote free speech on campus. I think we had a great event tonight, promoting dialogue on our university campus. Lots of viewpoints were expressed which I believe is great,” Files said.
“My adrenaline is kind of kicking right now.”
UConn freshman Daniela Alvarez, on the other hand, said the group had no business here on campus.
“We just want a more inclusive environment and we don’t want to see these types of things on campus and then have it covered up by the Freedom of Speech rhetoric,” Alvarez said.
TPUSA has caused much debate on college campuses across the country with their Spring 2019 Campus Clash tour. Texas State University proposed to ban their Turning Point chapter from campus earlier this month, according to the Washington Examiner.
“It’s just very frustrating that these people are being protected by the university and the administration. But people like us, who are more progressive and want to get change and see change on this campus, we’re being blocked off from these things,” she said.
Alvarez was part of a protest that formed outside of the Student Union which included some students who attended a counter-rally at the Castleman building earlier that evening.
The counter-rally, in addition to the protest organized by Industrial Workers of the World, were held to “protest hate”, as Kirk and Owens are often referred to as white-supremacists.
Reitz also said in her email that a student’s decision to boycott the event for which he or she claimed a ticket is in itself a form of expression protected by the First Amendment.