BY MACAYLA COOK
BY JORDANNA GARLAND
A group of people stood gathered on the path in front of Gore Hall. It was Dec. 5, 6:20 p.m. and they were there for one reason: to protest.
The protest was organized in response to the event held by Turning Point USA (TPUSA), a Registered Student Organization (RSO), where two speakers were invited to campus to debate the role of Christianity within the conflict in Israel. The two speakers were Lily Kate Cole, an Orthodox Christian and Kai Schwemmer, a Mormon. The protest took place mainly due to Schwemmer’s presence, who on his website refers to himself as “a notorious Gen Z conservative.”
A flyer handed out by protestors outside the event read “Schwemmer is a disciple of Nick Fuentes, a Holocaust-denying white nationalist who was a key leader of both the deadly ‘Unite the Right’ rally in Charlottesville and the January 6 insurrection.”
“I think he’s cool,” Schwemmer said in a post-debate question and answer session when asked about Fuentes. Cole disagreed, saying that she thinks “things that he says are extraordinarily ugly.”
Outrage at Schwemmer’s presence stemmed from many different motives: some protestors cited safety concerns for Jewish students, others voiced distress regarding where students’ tuition goes and others still contended that protesting was simply the right thing to do.
When asked about Schwemmer’s presence on campus, freshman David Lender replied that it made him feel “very uncomfortable and unsafe” as a Jewish student.
“As much as the university has been attempting to crack down [on antisemitism], they’re still giving people like this a platform at the university and I don’t understand why,” Lender said.
The university had to deal with the threat of antisemitism on campus throughout the fall semester. On Nov. 4, the university released a statement regarding a recent instance of antisemitism on campus where antisemitic phrases were left on a chalkboard in a classroom, claiming that it stands proudly with Jewish students in the ongoing fight against prejudice.
The university wrote in response to the Dec. 5 protest, “As part of the University’s mission to foster a wide range of ideas and respectful debate in support of free speech, groups may invite speakers whose views may be contrary to the values of the University, its administration or faculty. Visiting speakers may express a wide variety of views that are contrary to UD’s values and that some members of our community find hurtful or offensive.”
The statement then encouraged members of the university’s community to speak up against any sentiments they may disagree with in the name of productive civil discourse.
Other protestors voiced concerns over the fact that TPUSA is an RSO, which often receive funding from the university. Some students expressed a concern that the money they are paying to attend the university is going toward paying for this event.
Still, a few protestors arrived simply because they felt it was the right thing to do.
“I think it’s really important to be disruptive,” protestor and alumni James Rubin said. “I think there should be something done about this.”
At the actual event, the debate explored political issues beyond just Christianity and Israel. Schwemmer and Cole discussed topics such as feminism, pornography, abortion and sexual education in schools.
The event ended promptly at 8:30 p.m. when a large security detail escorted Schwemmer and Cole away. However, many onlookers from both sides stayed to continue the discussion.
Blake Kresses, a conservative social media influencer who identified himself as a friend to both Schwemmer and Cole, was one of those who stuck around to further the dialogue. Kresses, who self-describes as a “threat to democracy” in his Instagram bio, is not a university student.
“They are wonderful, loving people to everyone,” Kresses said when asked to respond to claims that the debaters were antisemitic. “I myself am half-Jewish and [Schwemmmer] is one of my closest friends as well as [Cole]. They are Christians, they love everybody.”
Tamon Hammlett, a self-identified friend of Cole’s and university student, also remained in the room after Schwemmer and Cole’s exit. Although Hammlett claimed to have disagreed with some points of the debate, he emphasized the importance of civil discourse.
“If you don’t debate hate, it is going to run off to a corner and it’s going to grow because there is no one there to disprove an easily disprovable argument,” Hammlett said.
Seems like immature and nonacademic noise-making for online income (via scummy advertisers). Due to bald bigotry that the university overseers should recognize, the SRO Turning Point group should probably be defunded. However, civil discussion and reasoned arguments are good. College kids should tune their critical thinking by listening and deciding for themselves. Your city council rep for D3