Two political groups faced off Oct. 13 at Michigan State’s Business College Complex on Shaw. The catalyst was an appearance by conservative political activist Candace Owens.
Leading the opposition was a newly formed progressive group, Students United Against Fascism. Though not a university-recognized student organization, this group has gained recognition across campus.
MSU’s chapter of Turning Point USA booked Owens in early September and opposition began bubbling. Earlier this month, Owens took a controversial stand by showing support for rapper Kanye “Ye” West at a Paris Fashion Week event by wearing “White Lives Matter” T-shirts side-by-side.
On Oct. 7, West tweeted a statement that many called antisemitic. Owens supported West on her podcast on Daily Wire on Oct. 10. That support is just one of many moments in her career that progressive individuals have deemed unjust. Owens has faced harsh criticism from progressives for her controversial views on transgender rights and opposition to the Black Lives Matter movement.
Owens said, “Now, if you’re an honest person, you did not think this tweet was antisemitic … You did not think that he wrote this tweet because he hates or wants to genocide Jewish people. If you’re an honest person, when you read this tweet, you had no idea what the hell he was talking about.”
Students United Against Fascism communications manager Natalie Harmon said she hopes, despite the newness of the organization, that it will fight harmful rhetoric and work alongside numerous progressive student groups on campus.
“We have elections coming up,” said Harmon, 20. “Her rhetoric has been harmful and divisive in the past. Just early last year, she spread misinformation that the 2020 presidential election was fraudulent and that former President Trump would continue to be our president. Her rhetoric and countless others are to blame for the insurrection at Capitol Hill earlier this year.”
Soon after Owens took the stage around 6:45 p.m, protesters filled the main lobby of the Business College Complex to chant.
Protestors included people who felt conflicted about the handling of the event itself, and the decision for MSU students to protest against Owens. MSU student Zaaki Mandwee said he is politically active and does not agree with Owens’ stances, but he believes that a civil discussion between both sides would be more effective.
Mandwee said, “I think it is a bad image for people on the left to do something like this. It also is a bad look for people on the right to refuse to have a civil conversation. I am here today to be one of those people at the round table to invite civil conversation.”
The protestors were allowed to ascend the stairway and stand outside the doors leading into the auditorium where Owens spoke. They marched past event attendees waiting in line and continued chanting.
As tensions rose, MSU police said they wanted to keep the environment safe so every person could be heard.
Harmon said, “We hope we can make ourselves heard. A lot of people feel put in danger with Candace Owens’ presence on campus, and we hope that our work to make this campus safer will make a difference.”
Turning Point USA event staff and volunteers did not wish to comment about the protest at this time.