On Friday, February 2, a feared confrontation between members of a white supremacist group and Antifa protesters outside a controversial event on the Colorado State University campus came to pass. Although no arrests took place, multiple reports say things got physical between the antagonists, with injuries suffered on both sides.
A post on the Northern Colorado Antifa Collective Facebook page offers this summary: "Cause and effect.... Don't be a fucking Nazi. Not in Fort Collins, not anywhere, the people will not take kindly of you. Thank you all for showing up!"
The two organizations wound up in the same place on Friday thanks to "Smashing Socialism," a 5:30 p.m. talk at CSU's Lory Student Center by Charlie Kirk, founder and executive director of Turning Point USA, a conservative national group that says its mission is "to identify, educate, train and organize students to promote the principles of freedom, free markets and limited government."
As we reported, Turning Point USA tries to portray itself as mainstream. But critics such as CSU student Hank Stowers, who wrote a scathing op-ed published by the Rocky Mountain Collegian, CSU's student newspaper, which has done a stellar job of covering the tale, charges the outfit with having a "history of condoning misogyny and rape apologia in Colorado." In his view, this philosophy has a corollary in the approach of the Traditionalist Worker Party, which has been identified as a hate group fueled by white-supremacist views. Stowers accuses them of harboring "similar doctrines of inequality, separatism and hatred."
In the meantime, racist fliers have started popping up on CSU's campus. They read "No Means NO!" and included the hashtag #MyBordersMyChoice and the web address of the TWP.
Around the same time, the Northern Colorado Antifa Collective Facebooked photos showing purported members of the Traditionalist Worker Party. Included was a shot said to depict Joshua Yeakel, co-star of a 2017 Westword post headlined "How a Colorado Senator Wound Up Posing With a White Supremacist." That item noted alleged ties between Yeakel and William Scott Planer, who was arrested in Colorado Springs for vandalizing the Chabad Lubavitch Jewish Center in 2017 and subsequently held on a $500,000 bond related to a felony charge in California, where he allegedly attacked a protester during a white-supremacist rally.
The Northern Colorado Antifa Collective says Yeakel was also outside the Kirk speech, which Collegian news director Haley Candelario covered in real time via Twitter. She also tweeted multiple videos showing demonstrators outside the Kirk speech. Here's an example:
The Collegian reports that altercations between Antifa and the neo-Nazis happened on the CSU plaza.
Officers with Colorado State University Safety and Police were also out in force as part of a plan previewed by CSU president Tony Frank in a letter sent to students, faculty and others on campus last week. In the missive, Frank ripped the Traditionalist Worker Party, writing that "the TWP goes by various names online, but let me keep this simple: a Nazi is a Nazi is a Nazi." He added that CSU's priority for the Kirk gathering "will be to protect the public safety while also allowing people to exercise their constitutional rights to peaceful protest and assembly."
The TWP representatives got a chance to make their views heard, reportedly chanting "Blood and soil" and "You won't replace us" — phrases familiar from last August's protest at Charlottesville, Virginia, during which one anti-Nazi activist was killed.
In the end, the TWP forces are said to have been chased off the campus, and numerous people posting on the CSU Safety and Police Facebook page had words of praise for officers.
"Thank you CSUPD for keeping the violence from spilling off of campus tonight during the Turning Point event," one individual stated. "Thank you for protecting the residents of Fort Collins who live in close proximity to your campus and our property. The residents of Fort Collins stand behind your actions in stopping a dangerous riot 100 percent."
Another post added: "Way to go keeping the riot at bay!!! Glad you are all safe, too!"
However, a naysayer had a less positive view of how things went: "Pushed a crowd of peaceful demonstrators into armed neo-Nazis. Horrible tactics/training/leadership. Thankfully the community saw what happened and how seriously CSUPD messed this one up."
Another poster wanted more aggressive action. The message exclaims: "Wow! Nazis! Seriously? Right here in Fort Collins?! Why aren't we sending in the military? I'm not kidding! Our grandparents fought these guys! They're terrorists! This isn't even a partisan thing, right? We don't protect terrorists rights to organize. Bring in a fleet of Apaches and round em up. We don't let ISIS do this crap!"
And on Turning Point USA's Facebook page? There's no mention of the Fort Collins gathering at this writing, but plenty of memes attacking the likes of Bernie Sanders, Chelsea Clinton, Colin Kaepernick and, strangely enough, comic Tina Fey. Just another day in 2018 America.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.