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Campus and University respond to upcoming ‘Culture War’ event

Turning Point USA’s “Culture War” event has incited a frenzy of responses by identified and unidentified groups who are calling into question the power of the First Amendment to protect controversial speakers on campus.

The event, featuring TPUSA founder Charlie Kirk and presidential son Donald Trump Jr., will take place Oct. 22 at 7 p.m. in the University Center for the Arts and is being funded by TPUSA, according to a statement by the University.

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When Kirk spoke on campus in 2018, the event drew protests and counter-protests, which included groups like Antifa and white supremacist organizations. 

The Colorado State University Young Democratic Socialists of America released a Google form petitioning the University to cancel the TPUSA event shortly after it was announced, citing safety concerns and amplification of “white supremacist voices.” According to YDSA, 700 people have signed the petition. 

“We, the hundreds of signatories and the YDSA that authored the petition, are demanding the administration cancel the ‘Culture War’ event,” wrote Rob Haggar and Meg Little in a YDSA statement email to The Collegian. “The event amplifies white supremacist voices, and, in light of the tepid responses of our administration to recent white supremacist violence, this event will likely accelerate racist action on our campus.”

They also wrote that they expect the University to ignore their demands.

In a statement released by the University and talking points distributed to CSU staff and faculty, the University cites the First Amendment of the United States Constitution as the restriction to dictating who can and can not speak on campus. 

“We cannot exclude speakers invited by a student organization on the basis of the content of that speaker’s message or remarks,” the statement read. “There are multiple points of view within our nation’s current political discussion.”

The YDSA statement says Kirk’s event should be labeled as “violent speech,” thus not protected under free speech.

We welcome all students of different political beliefs to join us and engage in respectful discussion and debate on key issues like free speech, limited government and capital markets.” -Gaby Brown, president of CSU chapter of TPUSA

The CSU TPUSA chapter President Gaby Brown wrote in an email to The Collegian that the organization supports YDSA’s right to petition against their upcoming event under the purview of free speech.

Faculty found posters with the words “take these down, report location” above an image of the fliers distributed on campus promoting the YDSA petition. University Spokesperson Dell Rae Ciaravola said the University said the posters weren’t “centrally ‘commissioned and distributed by the University,'” and both the posters and original fliers did not comply with University policies. 

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In addition to YDSA’s petition, a peaceful sit-in protest titled “Racism is not welcome at CSU,” appeared on social media platforms. The digital flier for the event encouraged students to purchase tickets to the event, dress in all black and attend the speech but not applaud or smile, as to make the speakers uncomfortable.

“We will remain dead silent throughout the event to show the speakers — and the public — that racism is not allowed at our university,” the flier read. 

YDSA’s statement and the University’s statement addressed safety concerns at the event, as pockets of violence reportedly occurred at the last Kirk event as protesters and counter-protesters dispersed. While YDSA questioned how much the University was spending on security at the event, the University statement said they have a priority to maintain safety at all large-scale events on campus.

The University statement also warned that the event may draw increased political engagement on campus and listed the First Amendment and free speech protections and University peaceful assembly policy.

Brown said TPUSA is open to students who disagree with the organization’s politics and compared the response to Kirk’s event to their response to Sen. Bernie Sanders’ appearance on campus in 2018.

“We welcome all students of different political beliefs to join us and engage in respectful discussion and debate on key issues like free speech, limited government and capital markets,” Brown wrote.

Ravyn Cullor can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @RCullor99.

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