A crowd of protesters at Kansas State University gathered outside the K-State Student Union on Thursday night in protest of the “Fighting for the First” event organized by the K-State chapter of the conservative nonprofit Turning Point USA.
The protest, sponsored by the K-State chapters of the Young Democrats and the Sexuality and Gender Alliance, encouraged students to stand up against the Turning Point event, which featured Austen “Fleccas” Fletcher, DC Draino and Elijah “Slightly Offens*ve” Schaffer as speakers discussing the importance of preserving First Amendment protections.
Students held signs with slogans such as “No Hate At K-State” and “Racism Has No Place Here” while organizers led chants and encouraged students to voice their opposition.
“We are here because we do not agree with their hateful rhetoric,” Ian Boyd, senior in political science, said. “There are a lot of students who feel uncomfortable with their presence and felt uncomfortable with the fact that $3,000 of student money is going to this organization. We needed to make sure that those students knew that their voices are not alone.”
During the protest, Fletcher, Draino and Schaffer actually dropped by to chat with protesters.
“I think the protest is great,” Fletcher said. “It’s good to see the First Amendment in action. All these people are out here expressing their First Amendment rights, it’s great.”
Trevor Whitlow, junior in entrepreneurship, said he found the protest to be “kind of funny, actually.”
“I’d imagine that not a lot of them know enough about the speakers or Turning Point to make a strong case that the $3,000 should be stripped or the event be defunded,” Whitlow said.
“I hope eventually this creates a dialogue for students to come together and have a serious discussion on what we’re doing to bring people together here at K-State,” said Noah Ochsner, freshman in agricultural communications and journalism. “I hope that people on both sides are willing to sit down and have a constructive conversation about what we can do to make our university a better place for every student.”
Just before the Turning Point event began, the protest’s organizers moved their operations to Anderson Hall to continue their display of solidarity.
Speaking to protesters outside Anderson, Adrian Rodriguez, associate vice president of student life for diversity and multicultural student affairs, said that “when you try to think what good can from this type of stuff, it’s this.”
“It’s terrible that it comes to this, but the fact that some of you found your voice today, the opportunity to stand on the steps of Anderson Hall and speak about what you believe in, is incredible,” Rodriguez said.
Pat Bosco, retiring vice president of student life and dean of students, said he appreciated that so many K-State students came out and expressed their opinions.
“I think K-State is at its best when it provides a voice for those who have no voice,” Bosco said. “[Free speech] has to be maintained as a fundamental principle at our school. It has to.”