Students protest campus TPUSA event, Charlie Kirk and Candace Owens speak on LGBTQ rights and nuclear families

The Lantern
Charlie Kirk and Candace Owens speak in the Ohio Union during the Live Free Tour put on by Turning Point USA on Wednesday. Credit: Kate Shields | Lantern Reporter

Conservative activists Charlie Kirk and Candace Owens spoke to an audience of about 1700 in the Archie M. Griffin Grand Ballroom at the Ohio Union Wednesday about topics — including LGBTQ rights and the nuclear family. During the event, about 60 protestors gathered outside the building to oppose the speakers’ ideology and rhetoric.

Live Free Tour discusses conservative ideas, transgender rights, nuclear families

The free event, which was followed by a Q&A, was a part of the Live Free Tour hosted by Turning Point USA, a nonprofit organization advocating for conservative politics on college campuses, and was open to both students and the general public.

Daniel Philip, president of Ohio State’s chapter of TPUSA and second-year in business, spoke first at the event, but protesters shouted over him. Attendees chanted “USA” at the protesters, who were eventually removed.

Ohio State’s chapter of TPUSA declined to comment.

Once she was given the floor, Owens said she felt “badly” the protesters came in before she and Kirk had taken the stage.

“It was like he missed his big chance. We weren’t even up here,” Owens said.

Owens said seeing so many college-aged conservatives in a room together is incredible.

“I was not one of you when I was in college, I was a liberal,” Owens said. “It’s incredible to me to see not just that there are conservatives, but there are conservatives that are proud enough to be conservatives and to be seen.”

Kirk and Owens welcomed students with opposing views and applauded them for their presence.

“I think it’s super awesome. It’s very difficult especially because I always express to people that the college environment is so different from when I was in school,” Owens said.  “When I was in school, when I was a liberal 13 years ago, my friends were conservatives, conservatives were allowed to be friends. It was never toxic.”

Kirk discussed the transgender community, claiming that it’s “completely out of control,” and there’s a “tyranny behind the trans thing.”

“It’s not about living and let live, it’s not about you being in your home dressing the way you want to dress,” Kirk said. “No, it’s you making me acknowledge something that is an insult and a middle finger to reality.”

Owens agreed with Kirk and said the conversation around transgender rights is “unfathomable.”

“If you go into a time machine and you went back just two decades ago in America, you said ‘I am from the future, and in 20 years, men will be able to be women and women will be able to be men and there will be 26,000 genders,’ people would have thought you were on crack cocaine,” Owens said.

Kirk said if the audience remembers anything he says, he hopes it’s that trying to remake man and woman with godlike authority is not just prideful, but it’s “dangerous” and “stupid.”

“It’s driven by academics that have never lived in the real world,” Kirk said. “People have Ph.D.s and wrote dissertations and could not fix a sink if their life depended on it, and these are the people that are screwing up our entire society.”

Owens said the left represents an attack on the nuclear family — a family group consisting only of parents and children, according to Merriam-Webster .

“Teaching people to mutilate their bodies, telling people to pursue same-sex couples and same-sex marriages, putting children on drugs that are irreversible, those people are not going to grow up to be able to have productive nuclear families,” Owens said.

Owens said she hopes the audience walks out of the event with a sense of optimism.

“Whenever we do an event, I always tell people that we want them to feel optimistic that wholesomeness is making a return, that holiness is making a return. And that is thanks to all the people in this room and I feel remarkably blessed,” Owens said.

Protesters speak out against Kirk, Owens and TPUSA
Protesters walk beside a line waiting to attend The Live Free Tour put on by Turning Point USA on Wednesday. Credit: Zachary Rilley | Photo Editor

Around 60 students gathered and spoke outside of the Ohio Union at 6 p.m., prior to the event. The protesters entered the Union at around 6:50 p.m. to hold a silent protest inside. They held a banner with the phrase “Ohio State Won’t Stand for Hate” and LGBTQ pride flags.

The protest was organized by the Ohio State Revolutionary Student Front. The organizers declined to comment at during the protest and encouraged others not to speak to the media.

Ollie Tracy, a third-year in social work who uses they/them pronouns, attended the protest and said they attended to show their support for marginalized students on campus. They said they think it’s wrong that Ohio State allowed Kirk and Owens on campus, because the two speakers could “take away our rights and our freedom of speech and our right to learn” in a place they pay to attend.

Stephanie Houser, a second-year in philosophy and English, said she protested to show her support for the LGBTQ community.

“I came to show my support for the LGBTQ community because [Owens] does not support trans people. I don’t think it’s right that the school is allowing it,” Houser said. “I know they were advertising it for mostly Charlie Kirk, but she is here too and she uses a lot of hate speech and I don’t think that should be here.”

RSF first stated on its Instagram March 6 it would protest the rhetoric of Charlie Kirk and his colleagues. In the statement, also signed by Ohio State’s Triota chapter and the Central Ohio Youth Liberation Front, the organizations called for Ohio State to cancel the event’s reservation.

“If we allow TPUSA to normalize themselves on campus, then we are allowing them to normalize these ideas their national leader represents,” RSF stated.

The plan to protest sparked debate on freedom of speech . Changes in Ohio law and the Board of Trustees’ free speech policy protect almost all speech on Ohio State’s campuses.

According to Ohio law and the university’s free speech policy, the university cannot restrict peaceful demonstrations of free speech.

“Regarding demonstrations, Ohio State supports the right of our students, faculty and staff to peacefully express their views and to speak about issues that are important to them,” the university’s Office of Marketing and Communications website stated. “Freedom of speech and civic engagement are central to our values as an institution of higher education.”

The story was updated at 8:14 a.m. to correct the spelling of Candace Owens in the headline.

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