Rioters Storm Peaceful Protest at Conservative's Campus Speech
Peaceful protests turned violent Friday night at Colorado State University when the crowd was stormed by a group of masked demonstrators chanting Nazi slogans. The initial protests began in response to a speaking event featuring Charlie Kirk, a conservative activist and founder of the nonprofit Turning Point USA. Kirk was reported to be speaking when the violence broke out.
Early groups of protesters were peaceful, the Coloradoan reports, but that changed quickly when a small group “wielding riot shields, large flashlights and face masks emblazoned with skulls” stormed the demonstrations and began “chanting a Nazi slogan”:
Protests prior to and during the speech were orderly. The violence broke out while the event was concluding inside the Lory Student Center.
Emeshe Amade, a CSU student, said at first she thought the group chanting the slogans were police breaking up the argument because of how equipped they were. Members of campus socialist groups and self-described anti-fascists were arguing with others at the protest about politics when about a dozen members of the third group stormed.
Campus police were able to end the fighting and disperse the crowd of about 200 people. No arrests were made, local station Fox 31 News reports.
The identity of the masked group has not been confirmed, but students present at the clash told the Coloradoan they believe it consisted of members of the Traditionalist Worker Party, a white nationalist organization.
“They didn’t come to have a conversation,” one student said of the group, which she and her friends labeled Nazis. “They came to be scary.”
Earlier in the week, CSU President Tony Frank sent an email to students condemning Nazi propaganda placed on campus by the Traditionalist Worker Party.
“The TWP goes by various names online, but let me keep this simple: a Nazi is a Nazi is a Nazi. And the members of the Traditionalist Worker Party are unapologetic Nazis who advocate murdering all those who don’t align with their worldview,” Frank wrote. “They don’t even pretend to keep this a secret. They put it out there unashamedly for anyone who wants to read it.”
CSU’s experience is not unique. The Anti-Defamation League, an international human rights organization, released a report Thursday revealing that reports of incidents of white supremacist propaganda increased by 258 percent on college campuses in 2017.
“White supremacists are targeting college campuses like never before,” ADL Chief Executive Officer Jonathan Greenblatt said. “They see campuses as a fertile recruiting ground, as evident by the unprecedented volume of propagandist activity designed to recruit young people to support their vile ideology.”
He noted that “campuses must respect and protect free speech,” but “administrators must also address the need to counter hate groups’ messages and show these bigoted beliefs belong in the darkest shadows, not in our bright halls of learning.”
Kirk tweeted condemnation of the “disgusting white-nationalists” outside his speaking event. His traditionally conservative politics are not to be confused with the white nationalist rhetoric of such controversial campus speakers as Richard Spencer and Milo Yiannopoulos, who both made headlines in 2017 when they attempted to hold college campus speaking events.
Still, one CSU student told the Coloradoan that the neo-Nazi group showed up for a reason, and pointed to Kirk’s “coded language” and “dog whistling.”
“I just wonder what the draw is,” she said. “There must be something that attracts them to Mr. Kirk.”