Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk and communications director Candace Owens, as well as libertarian commentator Dave Rubin, will visit the University of Connecticut on Tuesday as part of their “Campus Clash” series.
Kirk, Owens and Rubin will be speaking from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Student Union Theater, according to the event’s Eventbrite page. Tickets are free and students can order one per person.
The event was organized by the UConn Turning Point USA chapter, according to UConn Turning Point secretary Christopher Robitaille. Though the UConn College Republicans were not involved with coordinating the event, College Republicans president Sean Chilson said there will be a “good amount” of UConn College Republicans at the event.
“We were not involved with any planning, but some of us have volunteered to help pass out flyers and assist Turning Point with some logistical tasks on the day of the event so that it runs smoother,” Chilson said.
Robitaille said he hopes students come to the talk because Turning Point at UConn believes everyone deserves a right to freedom of speech.
“We hope that students will come with an open mind to see that these people and their ideas are not as dangerous as they are presented on certain mainstream media outlets and social media,” Robitaille said.
Chilson agreed with Robitaille, saying he is glad to see the UConn community bring more politically diverse speakers to campus.
“I believe that we can learn a lot through discourse, especially from those who think differently from us. I encourage any interested students to attend, regardless of their political affiliation,” Chilson said. “I know that there will be a lot of students that will disagree with Kirk and Owens, and I hope that they come with engaging and insightful questions.”
Chilson said above all, he hopes the event remains civil, noting that Turning Point at UConn asked various UConn organizations to facilitate a peaceful protest of the event.
Robitaille confirmed this, saying that in order to comply with UConn’s new review process for speaker events, the club’s choices were to have a student-run protest by a group willing to work with them or have a very heavy police presence at any protests that may arise.
“At a meeting with the school about the event, we talked about the likelihood of having protestors at our event and it seems very likely that this will happen for this event,” the message sent to organizations read. “After talking to the school about the likelihood of this happening, the school and my club would like to have a left-leaning organization like yourselves lead a protest demonstration in order to keep protesters organized. If we aren’t able to find an organization to lead a protest effort, UConn will have a large police presence watching over all the protestors instead.”
Robitaille said they sent the message because they want to ensure that both the protestors’ right to protest and Turning Point’s right to speak are protected.
“We have an obligation to protect the students and speakers inside of the event, so we reached out to groups to get some people to take point on the protest to ensure everyone’s rights were protected,” Robitaille said. “If another group had worked with us, then we would have the safe mind that these goals were met. We reached out to College Democrats and UConn Youth for Socialist Action and unfortunately, they all refused to work with us.”
However, several UConn groups, including the UConn Muslim Students Association, UConn Students for Justice in Palestine and UConn Bangladeshi Association, will be holding a joint protest for the event at 6 p.m. on April 9.
“We are united in our opposition to the program of elitism, white supremacy and misogyny represented by Charlie Kirk, Candace Owens and the UConn TPUSA chapter’s decision to invite them,” a statement from the groups read. “As Muslims, Jewish undocumented students, members of the LGBTQ+ community, working people and students of color, we stand resolutely opposed to the ideas and principles espoused by Kirk and Owens.”
The statement went on to say they find the speech especially inappropriate given the recent mass shooting at a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand.
“Together, we are holding a rally to voice our opposition to the ideas of Owens and Kirk,” the statement read. “It will also be an affirmation of our commitment to protecting our own rights to free speech, expression and organization.”
Gabriella DeBenedictis is a senior staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.