Letter: Turning Point USA Visit to UC Davis Poses Danger to Public Safety

(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

By Kelly Conner

I am writing to express my strong concern and opposition to the planned speaking event featuring Charlie Kirk, which is scheduled to take place on your campus on March 14. As a concerned member of the greater community, I believe it is imperative that we take a firm stand against the spread of fascist ideologies and the promotion of hate speech in all its forms.

Mr. Kirk is known for his extremist views, which include racist, xenophobic, homophobic and misogynistic rhetoric. His ideology runs counter to the values of inclusion, diversity, and equity that are essential to the academic mission of any institution of higher learning. Permitting him to speak on your campus sends a message of implicit approval for his hateful and dangerous ideas, and it can contribute to an intimidating environment for marginalized students, staff and faculty.

Furthermore, the presence of Mr. Kirk on your campus could pose a danger to public safety. Recent history has shown (violence in Davis on Oct. 26, 2022, when Mr. Kirk tried to hold his first event) that extremist speakers can attract violent and disruptive crowds (i.e. Proud Boys), and it is the responsibility of the university to ensure the safety of all members of the community. Allowing a speaker with a history of inciting violence to address students and staff on your campus is not only irresponsible but also puts individuals at risk.

While free speech is an important right, it is also important to consider the potential consequences of provocative or contentious rhetoric. Many in the community have expressed concern that Mr. Kirk’s views and statements could incite violence or discrimination against relegated groups or individuals. In past comments, he has repeatedly called for incitement of violence. For example, Mr. Kirk recently tweeted a video calling for violence against the transgender community stating, “Trans people should be dealt with like men did in the 50s and 60s.” Furthermore, in 2020, after promoting the “Big Lie” to his millions of followers, Mr. Kirk stated, “If we allow the Democrats to steal this election, there will be another Civil War.” Is this really where we are as a society—providing an election-denying, anti-democratic fascist with a platform to speak at one of the most diverse, well-respected public universities in the country?

I urge you to reconsider your decision to host Kirk and instead prioritize the safety and well-being of your community. If this event goes on as planned, I can almost guarantee a clash between UC Davis anti-fascist students and right-wing fascists led by the Proud Boys. If this does happen, you will not only have blood on your hands, but you will have betrayed your oath to not only the students you have been sworn to protect but the surrounding Davis community.

The promotion of fascist ideologies has no place in our society, and it is imperative that we take a stand against it now more than ever. I implore you to act in the interest of the greater good and cancel this speaking event. We are in unprecedented times and sometimes unprecedented times call for unprecedented action. Now is that time. We must do better as a community. We must stand up to fascism and we must reject it in its entirety. We must not host Mr. Kirk and his hateful views in this wonderful, diverse city.

Let us instead use our platform to promote inclusion, tolerance, and respect for all members of our community.

Kelly Conner is a resident of Davis.

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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17 Comments

  1. Walter Shwe

    Kelly Conner is absolutely correct that fascist Charles Kirk should never be allowed to step one foot inside the UC Davis campus. People like Kirk have no place in civilized society.

  2. Ron Glick

    I’ve never listened to Kirk but he sounds like a right wing shock jock troll. Who invited this guy to campus? Was it the College Republicans? They have a history of bringing offensive speakers to campus and engaging in other offensive stunts.

    Its no wonder that Republicans remain an ineffective super minority party in California. This isn’t party building its the self immolation of Ronald Reagan’s big tent. Good luck with that next Election Day. Get ready for Senator Schiff.

    Let them have the hateful fun they seek but make sure there is ample security to protect the public from violence. The first amendment prohibits the government from silencing hate speech but there no no mandate that people listen.

  3. Sharla Cheney

    I think we are well aware of the dangers this speaker provokes. That is why there is another event scheduled at the International House at the same day and time in protest. This event, organized by the Phoenix Coalition, is our response. I hope that people do not attend the event on campus – not even to protest – and fail to give the speaker the media attention he so obviously craves and needs to send his hateful message. Turn your backs on him and attend the event at IHouse.

  4. Ron Oertel

    In reading this letter, I’m not sure that Charlie Kirk or his followers are the ones who might instigate violence.

    Which (assuming that the description is accurate), might actually be his goal.

    I’m increasingly seeing that those on “the left” are the ones who want to shut down free speech (sometimes using violence, among some of the more extreme). It didn’t used to be that way.

    While most people (of all political persuasions) simply stay away (and may not even know who Charlie Kirk is). Perhaps watching any violence on TV, afterward.

    I thought the lesson was learned back in kindergarten – “sticks and stones may break our bones, but words will never hurt me”.

    You can always find people willing to fight you, if that’s what you’re seeking. (Again, most people try to avoid that.)

    That’s a reason I wouldn’t go into a “biker bar”, and start looking for people to argue with.

    1. David Greenwald

      “I’m increasingly seeing that those on “the left” are the ones who want to shut down free speech (sometimes using violence, among some of the more extreme). It didn’t used to be that way.”

      You’re not paying attention to the right wing efforts to gut Sullivan?

      1. Ron Oertel

        You’re not paying attention to the right wing efforts to gut Sullivan?

        No.  I don’t know who that is, nor did I know who Charlie Kirk is.

        But I am increasingly-seeing those on the “left” shutting down free speech by claiming that it’s “violent”.  And to “prove it”, some of them then engage in violence.

        1. David Greenwald

          Sullivan v. New York Times which came out of an advertisement from MLK and the civil rights movement. Seminal decision on free speech and libel. Interesting history.

  5. Walter Shwe

    I’m increasingly seeing that those on “the left” are the ones who want to shut down free speech (sometimes using violence, among some of the more extreme). It didn’t used to be that way.

    The Right lies when they claim to support free speech. The Trump’s social media platform Truth Social is an excellent example. Truth Social regularly bans Democrats from this platform, but allows Republicans free reign. Right wing domestic terrorists have been responsible for numerous power outages in various parts of the US.

    1. Ron Oertel

      The Right lies when they claim to support free speech. The Trump’s social media platform Truth Social is an excellent example. Truth Social regularly bans Democrats from this platform, but allows Republicans free reign.

      Not familiar with “Truth Social”, but it sounds like a privately-run platform (unlike a college campus).

      Right wing domestic terrorists have been responsible for numerous power outages in various parts of the US.

      I’ll take your word for it.

      What do you think of Antifa’s activities?

      What do you think of the protestors who take it upon themselves to shut down freeways? (Would you like for me to point out some examples where that’s led to violence – including at least one deadly incident)?

      What do you think of those who would instigate violence in an attempt to shut down free speech on campuses?

      In your view, what difference does it make regarding the political leanings of those who instigate violence? Should political views be a factor in regard to that?

      1. Walter Shwe

        Not familiar with “Truth Social”, but it sounds like a privately-run platform (unlike a college campus).

        The 1st Amendment only applies to the Federal Government, not state governments. UC Davis is a state institution. UC Davis therefore has every right to prohibit Charles Kirk or anyone else from setting foot on their campus.

        Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

        1. Ron Oertel

          The 1st Amendment only applies to the Federal Government, not state governments. UC Davis is a state institution. UC Davis therefore has every right to prohibit Charles Kirk or anyone else from setting foot on their campus.

          Is that right?  I would think that this might be a matter that a prohibited group (or person) might challenge.  Including “setting foot on their campus?”

          I do believe that UC receives federal funds, which might complicate your interpretation.

          Don’t know what else might impact your conclusion. To paraphrase an earlier TV commercial, “we’re not attorneys, but some of us pretend we’re one on a blog”.

          I’d like to see UC try to do this, and see what happens.

          [edited]

          1. Don Shor

            Great opinion piece in The Aggie by Joshua Clover on this topic. Excerpt:

            I asked a friend on the Harvard Law Faculty if there was settled law on this score. They directed me instead to an exchange between eminent legal scholars Erwin Chemerinsky and Robert Post. The former, a Berkeley professor, holds that hate speech is protected speech and the First Amendment says so; hateful speakers cannot therefore be barred on those grounds from speaking at a public university. Maybe so.

            The latter, a distinguished law professor at Yale, thinks quite the contrary. With an eye on exactly the situation before us, he writes about universities that “Unless they are wasting their resources on frolics and detours, they can support student-invited speakers only because it serves university purposes to do so. And these purposes must involve the purpose of education.” Charlie Kirk is a frolic and a detour, my new favorite expression for fashy twerps. Post’s position is clarion: “There is no 1st Amendment right to speak on a college campus.”

            Again, maybe so. I am not a legal scholar. But these people are. Specialists, even, regarding this particular constitutional law question. And the point is: they disagree. It’s a contested matter. There is no settled law that dictates what has to happen next.

            https://theaggie.org/2023/03/08/the-education-of-tpusa/

            IMO there are legitimate safety concerns about this event.

          2. David Greenwald

            Walter is correct that the 1st Amendment applies to the Federal government. BUT – he forgets that the Supreme Court has basically tied the First Amendment to the states through the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment.

            That was one of the first that the Supreme Court tied to the states. IN 1925, Gitlow v. New York, the Court identified free speech and press as “among the fundamental personal rights and ‘liberties’ protected by the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment from impairment by the States.”

            He also forgets that California has its own free speech clause in its own Constitution – Article 1, Section 2, Subsection (a): “Every person may freely speak, write and publish his or her sentiments on all subjects, being responsible for the abuse of this right. A law may not restrain or abridge liberty of speech or press.”

        2. Ron Oertel

           “Unless they are wasting their resources on frolics and detours, they can support student-invited speakers only because it serves university purposes to do so. And these purposes must involve the purpose of education.”

          Seems likely that Mr. Kirk has been invited by student(s).

          IMO there are legitimate safety concerns about this event.

          Probably only for those attending who are seeking a fight.  Might make for great TV, after-the-fact. I doubt that either of the types of groups who might show up would bother anyone who isn’t seeking a problem.

          Can’t tell you much about the Oscars, other than Will Smith slapping Chris Rock. And Chris Rock making some pretty savage jokes about it, the other day.

          Come to think of it, don’t really care about the Oscars, themselves. Nor do I care much about what some speaker has to say. It’s the reaction which comprises “the news”.

        3. Walter Shwe

          Nor do I care much about what some speaker has to say. It’s the reaction which comprises “the news”.

          I disagree. The news encompasses what the speaker actually says and the reactions of his audience.  I assume Charles Kirk will speak inside a lecture hall or auditorium on campus, not in an outdoor venue.

  6. Ron Oertel

    Was curious as to when Charlie Kirk would be speaking, so though I’d search for it.  Which led me to his Twitter account, where he notes this as the very first entry.  (I recall this previously, as well.)

    People think that cops need to be reformed. They need to be killed.” —UC Davis Professor Joshua Clover

    https://twitter.com/charliekirk11/status/1634250014011846656

    I’m thinking that I’m more in agreement with Charlie Kirk’s (unstated) point of view (compared to Professor Clover’s point of view), regarding the reason Charlie Kirk brought it up.

    And yet some don’t seem concerned with Professor Joshua’s point of view – despite being employed by the university. Instead, they want to ban Charlie Kirk (from even “setting foot on campus”) for pointing this type of thing out, apparently.

    Of the two of them (based upon this one comment, at least), I’m already more concerned about Professor Clover, given that he’s actually employed at UCD.

    But if Professor Clover was simply a “speaker” at UCD, I also wouldn’t be particularly-concerned. Though I certainly don’t advocate what he reportedly supports.

    If I was a student at UCD, I wouldn’t be happy at all about attending any of Professor Clover’s courses, given that he’d be “in charge of” my grade. Which (who knows) might even be required for some degrees.

    There’s your actual issue.

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