On February 2, 2018, an armed group reportedly threatened and clashed with students peacefully protesting outside an event at Colorado State University.
The students reportedly demonstrated outside a campus event at the university featuring Charlie Kirk, a conservative activist and founding director of Turning Point USA, an organization whose mission, according to the group’s website, is to “identify, educate, train, and organize students to promote the principles of freedom, free markets, and limited government.” Media reports indicate that groups of students both supporting and opposing Mr. Kirk’s on-campus speech held nonviolent demonstrations and discussions outside CSU’s student center before and during the event. Towards the end of the event, however, a third group of armed, masked individuals arrived on the scene, made Nazi salutes, and clashed with the protesters. Police on the scene dispersed the masked individuals and the protesters.
Witnesses claim that the armed individuals were members of the Traditionalist Worker Party (TWP), a right-wing extremist group, which, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, is “…intimately aligned with neo-Nazis and other hard-line racist organizations…” TWP reportedly distributed anti-immigrant flyers on the CSU campus in the days leading up to the February 2 event.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about violence and intimidation by armed individuals during campus demonstrations. Students and other groups have the right to freedom of expression and assembly on campus, but those rights must be exercised in a manner consistent with university values, including non-violence and social responsibility. Violent attempts to retaliate against or prevent campus expression not only pose a direct threat to the immediate victims, but also undermine academic freedom, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and harm democratic society generally.