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ETSU Student Organization Receiving Backlash For Inviting Guest Speaker Kyle Rittenhouse

Image Credit: ETSU chapter of Turning Point USA

The Tennessee Conservative Staff –

Controversy is brewing at East Tennessee State University over an upcoming guest speaker hosted by a student organization.

The ETSU chapter of Turning Point USA (TPSUA), an organization advocating for conservativism and freedom, invited Kyle Rittenhouse to speak on February 8th and share his perspective on what happened in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in August 2020.

After announcing Rittenhouse as speaker, TPUSA received substantial backlash, especially on social media platforms. Students encouraged others to reserve as many tickets as possible and then not show, leaving the venue empty.

Other campus student organizations have also spoken out against the event. ETSU’s chapter of the Young Democratic Socialists of American (YDSA) released a statement saying that the group “will not allow this event and the platforming of this hate-filled individual to go unnoticed.” 

The group also started a petition asking ETSU administration to speak out against Rittenhouse’s visit and is planning a protest to take place during the event.

TPUSA President Lakie Derrick told News Channel 11 that the group’s goal was not to spark controversy but to “cultivate ideas.”

“We want to educate students as well as empower students. We’re bringing [Rittenhouse] because we want to show that the soft-on-crime Democrat policies that a lot of states have are not good for the welfare of people,” Derrick said.

ETSU administration originally told WCYB that “ETSU cannot legally prohibit the event under the U.S. Constitution and state law. ETSU may only cancel an event if it poses a legitimate threat to public safety.”

“We have the First Amendment that protects my ability to bring in a speaker just like Kyle Rittenhouse who you may not agree with,” said Derrick.

As of January 25, there were 13,000 tickets reserved and the event had been moved to the Brinkley Center. Only about 600 of those tickets have been confirmed as real requests.

ETSU officials released the following statement, “From a university perspective, our focus is on upholding students’ right to free speech and maintaining public safety. Our campus safety team is working with local law enforcement and all groups involved to ensure everyone is able to express their opinions.”  

Derrick confirmed that the group was working with ETSU Campus Security and the Gray Police Department to make sure the event is safe for attendees.

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