Turning back Turning Point USA

Elizabeth Dean and Nilly Kumar report on the protest against Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk when he came to speak at the University of Illinois.

Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk (Gage Skidmore | flickr)Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk (Gage Skidmore | flickr)

STUDENTS AND community members in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, gathered to protest a speech by Charlie Kirk, the founder of Turning Point USA, on October 5.

Turning Point USA is a right-wing group that targets left-wing individuals and organizations on campuses. Kirk is currently going around the nation on a tour he actually calls "Melting Snowflakes and Smashing Socialism."

Turning Point members try to present themselves as mainstream conservatives earnestly seeking dialogue, while condemning leftists as intolerant and close-minded. But Turning Point's real goal is slandering left-leaning university employees, as well as trying to solicit information on left-wing professors for its "Professor Watchlist."

Kirk supports every anti-immigrant policy under the sun, from building a wall with Mexico to abolishing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. Despite his protestations that he isn't affiliated with the alt-right, Kirk got his start writing for Breitbart Media, which plays a major role in amplifying far-right ideas.

Turning Point has also invited Milo Yiannopoulos to speak on campuses.

Charlie Kirk seeks to act as the clean-cut face of the contemporary far-right resurgence. Therefore, students at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign felt it was necessary to call a protest to expose his reactionary views.

The protest was sponsored by the International Socialist Organization, with participation from other organizations, including representatives from Socialist Alternative, the Democratic Socialists of America, and the Party for Socialism and Liberation. Many protesters weren't affiliated with any organization, but simply wanted to stand strong against Kirk's racist, bigoted views.

Before the protest even happened, Turning Point spread baseless rumors about threats of violence against them. They also contacted the police ahead of time to ask for "security." (Apparently, cops don't qualify as part of the "big government" that Turning Point rails against.)

This is part of their strategy--to try to present themselves as the victims of a supposedly violent, intolerant left that dominates politics on campus. "Students tend to think that these opposing viewpoints do not exist," a Turning Point member told the Daily Illini. "It is time to pop the campus bubble."

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AS IT turned out, however, Kirk's fans were the ones interested in disruption and harassment on October 5.

More than 60 protesters showed up to oppose his bigotry, chanting slogans such as "Don't give in to racist fear. Immigrants are welcome here" and "Charlie Kirk, you can't hide, we can see your racist side."

Protesters marched across the university quad to chant outside the venue where Kirk was speaking. When they arrived, they were met with aggressive right-wingers.

During the course of the protest of Kirk, the right-wingers would try to isolate and intimidate individuals in the crowd, waving phones in people's faces and threatening to dox protesters. They deliberately tried to provoke the anti-racists, hoping to then present themselves as the victims.

However, the crowd stood strong against these tactics, at one point linking arms to prevent the right-wingers from infiltrating the protest. Chants like "From Palestine to Mexico, all these walls have got to go!" were able to drown out the "Make America Great Again" hat-wearers screaming "Build the wall!" and "U.S.A.!"

At one point, when the Turning Point fans started yelling "Go back home to your mom," a protester got on the mic to inform them she was both a mother and a grandmother.

People there to protest Kirk took part in a speak-out about the violence of capitalism, the benefits of socialism and the urgent need for mass organizing against far-right groups. Meanwhile, Kirk spoke inside about his desire to reduce the standard degree time at universities from four years to three, because "College should not be about life exploration. It should be about career preparation."

We need to oppose Kirk and his ilk when they come to campus and provide a better vision of what higher education in the U.S. means. We need to engage in struggles to defend undocumented students, divest from the Israeli occupation, fight for the rights of university workers and participate in every other struggle for justice on campus.

And we need to unite across campuses, workplaces and communities in order to fight against the right and for a better world.