A crowd of about 40 students surrounded by officers from the UT Police Department gathered on the West Mall on Wednesday to debate Charlie Kirk, Turning Point USA founder and executive director.
Turning Point USA is a nonprofit created to teach students conservative principles. The UT Chapter of TPUSA, which started this September, invited Kirk in hopes the event would be a space for students to discuss political issues, chapter president Meghan Lovett said.
“I just want people to get their voices out there,” Lovett said. “I want to let them know they have been heard, and let them converse with people with different ideas in respectful manner and hold an argument and learn a new perspective.”
The event was part of the “Campus Clash,” which runs from Oct. 23 to Nov. 13 and during which Kirk travels to college campuses considered politically liberal and aims to spark discussion.
“We thought we could do this peacefully,” Kirk said. “You can see in the news today that there are tensions arising on both sides, which is not okay. We should embrace our differences and do so peacefully.”
Throughout the event, students approached Kirk and discussed political issues. Finance senior Alex Melton, who stood as a spectator, said people were unprepared for Kirk’s arguments, because they didn’t argue with enough facts.
“He was coming with facts and breaking down every bit of the arguments they were trying to make,” Melton said.
Economics senior Katherine Horstman, who identifies as a democratic socialist, said she spoke with Kirk about the Affordable Care Act and was not convinced by his arguments.
“I feel like it actually inspired me to look up his arguments so I could be more prepared in this situation in the future,” Horstman said.
A group of about eight protesters gathered across from where Kirk was speaking and displayed signs claiming he was racist. Kirk decided to directly address the protesters by denying the claims. A student, who had been arguing with Kirk,
decided to throw water in the direction of a TPUSA employee.
“After they went back and forth for a little while, he went back to talking to the original protesters and that is when the guy from behind threw the water. Then, he was dragged away by police,” government junior Anthony Dolcefino said.
The student received a class C misdemeanor for assault. UTPD would not release the name of the student or the TPUSA employee.