Charlie Kirk | Credit: Gage Skidmore/Wikipedia

Free speech and self-expression are the topics Charlie Kirk came to UC Santa Barbara to speak about on March 1 as the founder of the right-wing conservative organization Turning Point U.S.A. What he encountered, however, was a backlash from the student community for Kirk’s notorious anti-LGBTQ, xenophobic, and anti-Semitic statements.

Nonetheless, Kirk’s talk took place at a crowded Campbell Hall, hosted by UCSB’s chapter of Turning Point U.S.A., a small but growing organization, largely due to events such as this. Kirk states he promotes free speech, and his national organization is famous for its advocacy of the First Amendment. In that advocacy, they include labeling anti-Semitic rhetoric as free speech, masking hatred and bigotry with constitutionality, a hallmark of Turning Point since its origin in 2012.

More than a hundred protesters gathered outside the lecture hall before and during the speech. Campus police had erected barricades, but conflicts arose as the two sides shouted at each other. Inside Campbell Hall, Kirk’s speech to the hundreds in attendance included a comment that the Ohio train derailment in February was a “war on white people.” He also responded to the protests, saying, “The people that are fascists are usually the ones that spend their evenings trying to prevent other people to speak.”  

After students and community members questioned Kirk’s presence on campus, Katya Armistead, assistant vice chancellor and dean of student life, said that although Kirk didn’t represent the campus or its values, his appearance was a form of the free expression protected under the Constitution. Armistead said she planned to be there herself “to be a witness to how the event unfolds, to liaise among student groups, and to escalate safety and emergency response protocols as necessary.”

In discussing the event with students and student groups, Armistead noted many did not want to bring any more attention or coverage to the speaker. Other options she suggested were to host counter-events and supportive forums for those who felt the discourse was harmful and threatening.


Please note this login is to submit events or press releases. Use this page here to login for your Independent subscription

Not a member? Sign up here.