The last time Charlie Kirk, head of the controversial neo-con organization Turning Point USA, visited Colorado State University, a riot broke out between neo-Nazis and anti-fascist counter-protesters.
There was no mayhem on the evening of October 22, when Kirk returned to the scene with presidential son Donald Trump Jr. in tow, thanks to the efforts of the CSU police, which did a better job of separating groups on different sides of the ideological divide. But rhetorically, Kirk tried his best to inflict damage on parties he views as opponents, including CSU president Joyce McConnell, whom he blasted for allegedly lumping him in with recent racist acts at the university, and the school as a whole, which he accused of attempting to suppress his audience.
As we reported in our preview of the event, an online movement attempted to undermine attendance by messing with the ticketing system. People could reserve up to twelve tickets, and numerous progressives on social media urged those opposed to Turning Point USA's persistent white supremacist dog-whistling to snap up as many as they could, then not show up in the hopes that the University Center for the Arts, where the gathering took place, would fall short of capacity. Others encouraged individuals to reserve tickets and take a seat, then symbolically walk out to show their disdain for the entire spectacle.
This tactic had mixed success. According to Kirk, more than 16,000 tickets were reserved for the speeches even though the venue holds only around 800 people. And while the hall was largely full, a considerable number of students did indeed leave, as captured by this video tweeted by Sady Swanson, a reporter for the Fort Collins Coloradoan.
Silent protesters have walked out pic.twitter.com/lRiwLvzHzZ— Sady Swanson (@sadyswan) October 23, 2019
In the meantime, a large group of demonstrators against Kirk and Trump Jr. had gathered outside the center, as did a smaller collection of mostly young men who appeared to be spoiling for the sort of trouble that erupted at the conclusion of the 2018 event.
When Kirk took the stage at the University Center for the Arts, he made a sly allusion to what had gone down back then. "Last time we did this, there was lots of energy around the place — let's put it that way," he said.
Moments later, Kirk began using CSU as a straw man by implying that the university was actively trying to work against Turning Point USA even as it was allowing the event to occur. He said that Turning Point had representatives on "1,400 high school and college campuses across the country...and we have over 1,500, 2,000 people who weren't able to get into this room tonight. If only there were bigger rooms at this university, right?"
According to Kirk, "a new form of censorship is going on at universities like this. They say, 'We allow conservatives to come on campus, but we're only going to give you 500 tickets.'"
Kirk acknowledged that some of the reserved tickets "might be fake, like some of our friends up there who think they're making such a fashion statement by protesting. Stickin' it to the man!" Then he added, "I went into the overflow room, and there are hundreds of students at Colorado State University who were like, 'Oh, I thought we were going to get a chance to get in.' Give a shout out to them, because they're still watching on a live feed. It's too bad, because this university has the capacity, has the space."
If even a half, or a quarter, of the 16,000 reserved tickets were genuine, that represented "a huge amount of interest for conservative ideas," Kirk opined before finding a new way to point the finger of blame: "Let's play a hypothetical. Let's say Antifa or the Democratic Socialists of America decided to host an event on campus, and the university found out there were 16,000 tickets sold. Do you think there'd be a problem with space on campus? But there's a reason for it. The left hates the idea that there are other ideas."
Here's the video of the entire event, via Turning Point USA.
As for McConnell, Kirk fumed that "the president of this university dared to send out an email to the entire body that talked about despicable acts that happened on this campus that we repudiate and that we reject and that have nothing to do with us. And then, with no pretext and no precondition, in the next paragraph over, it says, 'I've learned that Charlie Kirk is coming to campus.'"
He was referring to an email that McConnell sent to what was described as the "entire Colorado State University community" on September 20. The night before, she wrote, "literally while our campus community was gathered to discuss a recent incident involving a photo of students in blackface, we discovered a swastika drawn on the wall of a university apartment building. Blackface is racist and dehumanizing.The swastika is an abhorrent and abiding symbol of anti-Semitism.
"Acts of bias and racism are widespread across the country and the globe, but they should not be happening on the CSU campus," McConnell continued. "We stand firmly behind our Principles of Community and these acts and others violate our principles. We must come together, unanimously reject acts like these, and work on accountability."
The CSU president's email then added: "We also learned Wednesday night that a student group exercising its First Amendment right to invite speakers to campus invited Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk to speak on campus on Oct. 22 at the University Center for the Arts. I assure you all that we are aware of this upcoming invited speaker, whose visits to campuses across the country have sparked protests, including on our campus in February 2018."
For Kirk, the implication in that email was clear, and he made a great display of disgust over it. "I haven't seen an apology issued," he huffed, and he suggested that the reference, which "is still on the university website to this day...smears and slanders the great work that all of our Turning Point USA students do every day. And what's really disappointing is that we're allies in the fight against hatred."
Like many of Kirk's statements, this one is highly debatable, and the same can be said of comments made by Donald Trump Jr., who soon joined Kirk and facilitator Kimberly Guilfoyle. At one point, for instance, Trump Jr. grumbled that from the perspective of protesters, "there's no level of 'woke' that's enough."
After the extravaganza concluded, there were some tense moments, as seen in this video tweeted by another Coloradoan reporter, Erin Udell:
Tonight in Colorado at CSU. Don jr and Charlie Kirk we’re there. https://t.co/NbfAWFYKHz— MB (@Sugarcubedog) October 23, 2019
In the end, however, a repeat of the fisticuffs that marred the last Kirk caravan to CSU was avoided — a conclusion celebrated by those behind Kirk and Trump Jr.
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The NOCO Trump Victory Campaign tweeted a photo showing a long line of young white men accompanied by the caption "So many Trump supporters out here waiting to hear @DonaldJTrumpJr @charliekirk11 #LeadRight #COtherightway."
Other Twitter users veered into territory occupied by the elder Donald Trump, by boasting about the number of attendees. One person posited: "Record crowd at CSU to see Donald Trump Jr tonight. Book a larger venue next time. We love you here in FoCo. Keep America great."
Another offered this: "Why was tonight’s CSU event featuring Donald Trump Jr. in a room that only had 800 seats? Our President has over 70 million loyal US Citizens who intend to vote for him in 2020 & CSU was caught intentionally trying to suppress the audience size. Very Sad."
This last note included the Twitter handle of former CSU President Tony Frank, suggesting that its author is behind the curve. But in a post-facts universe, what difference does that make?