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Students protest white nationalist Nicholas Fuentes, supporters outnumbered

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Students protest white nationalist Nicholas Fuentes, supporters outnumbered

More than 50 students and activists sat in Carver 205 Wednesday night waiting for white nationalist Nicholas Fuentes to speak. Twenty minutes after he was slated to arrive, the group decided to switch gears.

Anthony Labruna of College Republicans and Alexis Holmes of the Black Student Alliance (BSA) began leading a discussion meant to bring the attendees together.

That is until 10 minutes into the discussion when Labruna announced Fuentes was in East Hall, and attendees fled to find him.

An hour and a half later, after Fuentes delivered a speech blaming immigrants, “globalists,” and people of color for America’s problems, he stood toe-to-toe with local activist Javier Miranda.

Miranda said Fuentes pointed out his yarmulke and stopped just short of calling him an anti-semitic slur.

“You know what I was going to call you,” Fuentes called back to Miranda as the Iowa State Police Department escorted him into Parks Library and out through the back, ending Fuentes’ time at Iowa State.

Anticipation

Labruna and another member of College Republicans arrived in Carver around 6:30 p.m., while two Iowa State police officers guarded the room. The officers entered and told the pair they were not allowed to enter since the space was not reserved. Labruna asked why they weren’t allowed to sit in the room, and the officers allowed them to stay.

More people began trickling in, and by 7 p.m., approximately 40 people — a mix of supporters, protesters and people who were “just curious” — had arrived.

Jonathan Hall, the National Panhellenic Council (NPHC) liaison for BSA served as the spokesperson for the NPHC, BSA and NAACP coalition at the event and said he “found comfort” in the amount of people who showed up to oppose Fuentes.

Shortly after 7:30 p.m., with more than 50 people in attendance and no sign of Fuentes, Labruna and Holmes stepped to the front of the room.

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Alexis Holmes, a Black Student Alliance member, and Anthony Labruna, a member of College Republicans, moderate conversation at Carver 205 Wednesday, March 6. Attendees expected to hear Nicholas Fuentes talk about his views however he never showed. LaBruna addressed the public to tell them of Fuentes’ new location for his speech: East Hall.

“We just wanted to go ahead, and, since we’re all gathered and since everyone is full of a whole lot of emotions and feelings and thoughts, we thought it would be important for anyone who is in the right spirits and right emotional level to have dialogue with each other,” Holmes said.

Ten minutes later, Labruna paused the session to announce Fuentes’ arrival in East Hall. Labruna said he was enjoying the discussion and thought he was learning more from the other students than he would by listening to Fuentes.

Holmes and Labruna invited students to stay, but the majority left quickly.

Changing locations

Fuentes was waiting for the crowd in Room 0211 of East Hall. As they entered, he noted how “diverse” they were and said, “I’m a diverse person myself — a quarter Mexican, 1.5 percent African.”

One activist suggested closing the door, telling fellow protesters they should listen to Fuentes before talking with him.

“He already assumes that we’re going to be very disruptive, so we’re going to be very respectful,” she said. “Let him speak; hold all the questions until the end.”

Three Iowa State police officers arrived at the scene and asked Fuentes to step into the hallway, where they asked him who brought him to campus.

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Nicholas Fuentes speaks with Sergeant Meenagh of the Iowa State Police Department in East Hall at Iowa State on Wednesday, March 6. Fuentes attended Iowa State for his first campus visit. Sergeant Meenagh had Fuentes move his speech from the classroom as it was not reserved. Fuentes moved to the "free speech zone" outside Parks Library. The prepared speech was followed by a Q&A where Fuentes spoke with attendees about their differing views.

"It was Turning Point who organized the event ... I believe an individual reserved the room," Fuentes said.

The officer told Fuentes Turning Point doesn’t have affiliation with the university. Fuentes said he was unsure who reserved the room, but he said it was an individual who does have an affiliation with the university.

Fuentes attempted to find out the name of the individual who had booked the room. A member of the crowd said the room was booked by College Republicans, but student Trevor Kems said the person speaking was not a member of College Republicans, and it was “not an official statement” from the group.

College Republicans and Turning Point have denied affiliations with the event. Since Turning Point is not an official student organization at Iowa State, the turn of events left Fuentes without a campus organization to sponsor his appearance.

Without an official sponsor, Fuentes was not allowed to speak in a classroom and was asked to leave by Iowa State police. He set out for the Tree of Oppression outside of Parks Library, near the “free speech zone.”

As Fuentes and a still-growing crowd of protesters and supporters trekked across campus, members of Student Government heard he was moving to the Tree of Oppression and left their weekly Wednesday meeting.

President Julian Neely, Vice President Juan Bibiloni, Director of Sustainability Toni Sleugh, Senior Director of Student Services Zahra Barkley and Director of Diversity and Inclusion Lilian Juma, among other Student Government members, were in front of Parks Library by the time Fuentes arrived.

“I don’t appreciate the hateful rhetoric this speaker brought to our campus and I recognize the harm that it has caused,” Neely said in a statement after the event. “Not only did they target my identity, he targeted many others. Whoever feels the need to bring someone to our campus to disrespect, harm and disrupt our family, shame on you.

“This is our community, our campus and our family. We love everyone for who they are and what they represent.”

Fuentes stopped before reaching the Tree of Oppression and moved to the “free speech zone” for better lighting and stepped up onto a half-wall to begin speaking.

The speech

Fuentes began his hour-long speech by dissecting an Iowa State Daily article describing him as a white nationalist and distancing himself from neo-nazi Richard Spencer.

“A lot of everything in this article is garbage,” Fuentes said. “It should be taken with a grain of salt.”

Shortly after, Fuentes switched to what he said would be the main focus of his speech: immigration. He noted that the speech he was about to give “was not designed to be given for an audience of left-wing and right-wing people. This speech was designed for college Republicans.”

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Attendees of Nicholas Fuentes’s speech ask questions and debate during a Q&A portion at the Free Speech Zone at Iowa State University on Wednesday, March 6.

“The number one issue of our time in the United States and in the Western world is not socialism, it’s not economic systems,” Fuentes said. “The number one issue of our time, whether you think it’s good or bad, is mass migration. What defines the 21st century when we have globalization, when we have liberalization of markets is the massive movements of people.”

Main themes of Fuentes’ speech included connecting what he believed to be the link of people of color and Democratic beliefs. He also remarked “the number one issue of our time” as “mass migration,” which he argued went against the ideals of what America was built on.

Fuentes was regularly met with chants trying to disrupt his speech, including, “hey, hey, go home,” and making noises, while other protesters encouraged attendees to listen.

After 45 minutes of speaking, Fuentes ended his livestream of the event as he and members of the crowd argued with one another.

“This speech is going nowhere,” an attendee said. “We realize that he is definitely a racist because he is ignorant and he is close minded to other people’s perspectives and opinions, so we’re just going to move on and take this as an example of what you should not be.”

As he walked away from the scene, Miranda said Fuentes “pointed out [his] yarmulke and started asking [him] questions about [his] jewishness.”

An Iowa State police officer intervened and escorted Fuentes into Parks Library where he waited for his car.

To close the night, Fuentes tweeted: “Thank you to Turning Point USA and ISU for a great event— hopefully the first of many campus speeches!”

Reporting contributed by Jake Webster, K. Rambo, Devyn Leeson, Katlyn Campbell, Whitney Mason and Alex Connor.

(1) comment

Will Riley

As a republican and conservative, I'll be the first to admit that this guy is trash. Makes us look very bad and needs to grow up. I can't take anything he says seriously.

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