Turning Point USA's Live Free Tour took a stop at MSU's Broad College of Business, hosting speaker Candace Owens, a popular conservative political commentator.
The crowd of students gathered at Broad were split between those who wanted to celebrate Owens' ideals and those who wanted to silence her.
Several hundred people lined up for a seat at the event, some sporting anti-socialism merchandise. The auditorium reached capacity before Owens took the stage.
David Afton brought his children to the event. He said he raised them to be "non-socialistic" and "pro-capitalism" in a conservative and libertarian home. Afton was eager to hear Owens speak on property rights, economics and free trade – topics Owens did not touch on during her speech.
"I think it's important that other people get exposure to people who are on the fence," Afton said. "I'm sure when they hear the logic and the reasoning, ... they're gonna be convinced to go the other way … in the conservative direction."
Frances Bolt, another fan of Owens', said she looks up to her, admiring her independent voice.
“I believe in freedom of speech, and you are entitled to whatever opinion," Bolt said. "I think a lot of people misunderstand what she says they paint her as this hateful bigot and homophobic. ... I don't really see that. I just think that she's very pro-freedom of speech.”
However, the Students United Against Fascism, or SUAF, rallied outside during the event, claiming that Owens was spreading hate speech.
“Candace Owens and Turning Point, quite frankly, are dangerous," comparative cultures and politics sophomore and SUAF member Jesse Estrada said. "They spread hate speech. The university won't call it that, but … Candace Owens helped make a name for herself off of like saying trans people shouldn't exist or being trans isn't a real thing and just like denying their very existence … it brings violence and hatred towards those communities and so we're here to show that's not acceptable on our campus.”
SUAF and Estrada recently organized another protest on campus, when MSU's Turning Point USA chapter hosted a meeting with former gubernatorial candidate Ryan Kelley.
“Just like Ryan Kelley, Candace Owens is a fascist," Estrada said. "She's a bigoted conservative. Anytime they show their … faces on campus with their ugly ideology, we're gonna be here standing against them. We're gonna say you're not welcome here.”
SUAF members said their protest was meant to make enough disruptions and noise to get the event shut down because it was not the message they want to welcome to their campus.
“We are not an RSO (registered student organization) or anything, but we all came together to unite against people like Candace Owens when we find out that they are here to show their face on campus and spread harmful ideologies," comparative cultures and politics junior and SUAF president Natalie Harmon said.
An economics sophomore and Turning Point MSU member said they were just interested in hearing someone use their free speech on campus. They said everyone is welcome to have a voice at Turning Point.
“(Tuning Point does not) promote one party or the other," they said. "Specifically, they're just there to promote free speech and open-mindedness for everybody.”
However, Turning Point MSU features exclusively conservative speakers and posts on their social media that "socialism sucks," leading people to believe they favor conservative ideologies.
“Turning Point USA is having Candace Owens here just so she can give her thoughts about what's going on in the world right now and the state of our political affairs," they said. "It's open to everybody … Everybody's open to believe what they believe and say what they want to say and she's just here to give her perspective today.”
Owens' opening remarks included a story about her journey from changing her beliefs from liberal to conservative, with the help of her favorite media outlet, Fox News. At this time, 20 protestors stood up shouting "f---," which was met with boos from the crowd. Protesters and attendees took turns yelling "go home Candace" and "we want Candace."
After protesters were removed, Owens continued to comment on them throughout her talk, calling them "gender studies majors," blaming their "underdeveloped brains." She said people who have no strategies for protest get put in timeout and that they would not be productive people in society.
"I was a liberal, but I was never that," Owens said, in reference to the protesters. "There's no videos of me screaming. I was not a leftist."
Owens said she can tell if someone was a leftist by looking into their eyes.
She said college campuses are creating leftist ideologies and "pushing communism." Owens said she found more use in people going to trade schools and getting "actual jobs" than getting college degrees. She said education is the "fifth branch of the government" and that college makes students more reliable on the state.
Owens then shifted into her topic on the "trans agenda," calling the transgender community Machiavellian, before turning her focus to the environment.
Owens recalled photos of deceased polar bears that environmental justice leaders circulated in an effort to illustrate climate change ramifications. When she saw these photos, she said, she wasn't phased because she "doesn't like polar bears that much."
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Owens also condemned "the feminist agenda" and said when women climb the corporate ladder, they are acting like men. She condemned terms like "toxic masculinity," which she said excuses men out of acting how they naturally should. "Toxic masculinity" refers to specific male behaviors that harm society and men alike.
As the event ended, a group of 100 protestors blocked the hallway, chanting "Black lives matter" and "God loves gays." The protest continued until all of the Candace supporters were out of the building.
“There’s a lot of energy," games and interactive media sophomore and protestor Rio Lyon said. "We all lost our voices … we just wanted to get our message out. There’s no point in fighting them … so we used our voices.”
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