By Kourtney Husnick
Turning Point USA founder, Charlie Kirk, visited campus leading to protests in front of Main Classroom on Euclid Avenue on Thursday, Oct. 19.
Turning Point USA, also known as TPUSA, is a national conservative nonpartisan organization that promotes free markets, limited government and fiscal responsibility. Cleveland State’s TPUSA branch holds events such as a Freedom of Speech Wall and sponsored Kirk’s appearance on campus.
Kirk visited to speak at the TPUSA Melting Snowflakes and Smashing Socialism event at 6 p.m. He spoke about capitalism, the Constitution and why he believes America is the greatest country in terms of prosperity.
“America is the greatest country for a couple reasons,” Kirk said. “Our diversity, our economic strength, our generosity and our ability to have upward mobility.”
He addressed comments from the audience and took questions at the end of his speech. During the speech, the audience was energetic and loud. Interruptions and applause were frequent from supporters and protesters alike. Afterward, questions covered topics ranging from the cost of education, kneeling during the national anthem and economics.
“I have never, not once, said get rid of property tax,” said Kirk in response to a question about funding education. This kicked off an hour of questions, answers and discussion between Kirk and the audience, not all of whom were supporters. Kirk also stayed to take pictures with both fans and protesters.
The protests against Kirk started at 5 p.m. with members of the local Refuse Fascism group. Refuse Fascism is a movement aiming to remove President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence from the White House.
Organizers of the Refuse Fascism protest focused on Kirk, Trump and politics. Some students joined later with a crowd of others standing by to watch. Many students expressed problems with the protest with reasons ranging from the protesters not being students, the content not being educational and support for the TPUSA event.
“It’s free speech. If it was a liberal analyst, I mean, it’d be no big deal,” attendee Jake Simonelli said. “[Because he is] conservative everyone’s [got to] protest because they disagree.”
Student protesters changed the conversation to hate speech and homophobia in light of the recent events on campus.
“Demand free speech, not hate speech,” one student shouted. “All I want you to take away from today is to let people live their lives.”
The protesters later moved to the MC auditorium for the Melting Snowflakes and Smashing Socialism event. Student Socialist Society members joined to protest as well with signs, flags, questions and TPUSA-themed bingo sheets.
Kirk opened the event with a summary of his talking points and enthusiasm to hold a dialogue with attendees.
“If you are here and you disagree with everything I say,” Kirk said. “I still appreciate you coming tonight.”