At Kent State University hundreds protest speech by fascist killer Rittenhouse

When the right-wing organization Turning Point USA announced it was hosting a speaking engagement at Kent State University in Ohio for white supremacist killer Kyle Rittenhouse, students tried to get the university administration to cancel the event, filing petitions with 5,000 signatures. When the university allowed the meeting with Rittenhouse to proceed, citing freedom of speech, students organized a press conference on April 16, the day Rittenhouse spoke. 

Protest against Kyle Rittenhouse, Kent State University, April 16, 2024. Photo websource: Dream for America on X

The press conference became a demonstration of hundreds of students protesting outside while others challenged Rittenhouse inside.

Rittenhouse shot three antiracist protesters on Aug. 25, 2020, killing two, at a Black Lives Matter demonstration in Kenosha, Wisconsin. He was acquitted of homicide, attempted homicide and reckless endangerment in 2021. Turning Point reportedly pays him $5,000 for each 30-minute speech. When Rittenhouse attempted to speak at the University of Memphis, he was loudly booed and shouted down, leading him to cut his talk short.

Aciano Rosales, freshman ambassador for the Spanish and Latine Student Association (SALSA), opened the press conference saying, “Kyle Rittenhouse’s presence as a guest speaker mocks the legacy of blood shed by protesters on Kent State’s campus. It optimizes hateful white supremacism that we as Ohio students feel is unacceptable.” (Kentwired.com, April 16)

Rosales was followed by Paul Prediger, formerly Gaige Grosskreutz, who Rittenhouse shot and wounded. For almost four years Prediger kept a low profile but on April 16 felt compelled to speak out, saying, “Enough of the lies and the deceit that has been told by Kyle Rittenhouse for three years about what actually happened in Kenosha August 25, 2022.”

SALSA President Aimée Flores reminded the crowd of the May 4, 1970, Kent State shootings, in which four unarmed students were killed by the Ohio National Guard at a protest of the U.S. war against Vietnam. Calling out bigotry and white supremacy, she said, “That is why Gov. James A. Rhodes was able to send the National Guard to Kent State 54 years ago on that hill. That is why today we ask ourselves, ‘Who will defend us?’”

Yaseen Shaikh, president of the Kent State chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine, told The Progressive that a large portion of the student body was unhappy with “a vigilante coming to campus.” SJP helped organize the press conference, along with SALSA, Black United Students, Sister Circle, United Students Against Sweatshops and other student groups.

Martha Grevatt

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Martha Grevatt

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