There was a clash of political opinion at the University of Connecticut Tuesday as representatives from conservative organization Turning Point USA came to speak on campus Tuesday.
There was a spirited debate between students and the political speakers, as well as some fireworks in the theater and protests outside.
“It definitely attracts a crowd. There are a lot of haters. But I think the best thing both sides can do is listen,” said James Petersen, a UConn freshman.
There was a brief, heated moment between protesters and those looking to attend the so-called Campus Clash Tour’s stop, prompting one group to chant “Build the Wall! Stop the deportations.”
The rest of the event ran smoothly.
Fans and opponents lined up to hear speakers including Charlie Kirk, founder of the conservative organization Turning Point USA.
“I just agree with him politically. We’re both conservatives,” said Eli Majek, a senior.
Also on stage were commentators Candace Owens and Dave Rubin. The group engaged the audience in a sometimes feisty back and forth on topics such as culture and big government.
“Connecticut was once a beautiful state and now it’s a sinking ship because of Democrat, socialist policies,” argued Candace Owens, Turning Point USA communications director.
UConn beefed up security for these types of events after two arrests at a talk in 2017. Tuesday’s appearance was hosted by the UConn chapter of Turning Point USA, which also sees this as a free speech issue.
“I believe all students should have the ability to exchange ideas and participate in the marketplace of ideas,” said Joseph Gatti, a member of the Turning Point USA UConn chapter.
At the same time, a counter-event was taking place nearby. A broad group of student associations coming together to stand up against what they feel is the spread of hateful beliefs.
“As a Muslim woman I wanted to be sure to be present and showing support for people who are here in solidarity,” said Elaf Al-Wohaibi, a UConn Law Student
Turning Point USA describes itself as a student movement for free markets and limited government. It has chapters on more than 1,000 high school and college campuses.