Conservative Speaker Candace Owens’ seminar at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette on Wednesday, Sept. 18 attracted both protestors and supporters.
While protestors voiced their disgust for Owens’ far-right opinions outside Angelle Hall, her supporters were inside, greeting these same ideas with thunderous applause.
Protestor Mark Malloy, a first-year graduate student in history as well as a member of the Student Action and Organizing Committee, said his organization sent emails to both the UL College Republicans and Dean of Students Margarita Perez, asking them to cancel the event before deciding to protest.
“We went through anything we could to stop this harmful rhetoric from occurring on campus, and once we knew it was going to happen all we could do was contest with our voices,” Malloy said. “These things we believe imminently hurt people and translate directly into violence and even if, as I said, even if she does not pull the trigger she loads the gun.”
Other people such as Heather Goodwin, a stay-at-home mom who attended the event, admired Owens’ for her controversial remarks.
“I like the way that she speaks and explains what her points are and I feel like she’s very thorough and blunt and I respect that,” Goodwin said.
Owens kicked off the event by saying the media, and America as a whole, adored Donald Trump, but changed their tune once he ran for president.
“Incredible how loved this man was and just like that, overnight, he said ‘I’m running to sit in the Oval Office’ and the media said ‘Woah, woah, woah, woah, woah, he’s racist, nevermind, forget everything we said about him,’” she said.
This statement was well-received by those attending, but according to The Washington Post, Business Insider and Time Trump said, “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best,” he said in the same speech. “They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people,” when he announced his candidacy on June 16, 2015.
Whether or not Owens is aware of this comment or views it as racist is unknown.
Owens then claimed liberals are oppressing African-Americans by making them into “single-issue voters.”
“And I asked a really important question to myself and I said, ‘Is it possible that racism is now being used as a theme to turn black people into single-issue voters,” Owens said. “‘Is it possible that that’s what’s been happening for a really long time and I’ve just been asleep at the wheel?’ And, of course, I found that the answer was yes.”
She later claimed racism no longer exists in America.
“Grandad grew up on a sharecropping farm in Fayetteville, North Carolina,” she said. “He grew up in the segregated south. That was a time where there actually was racism in this country.”
She also said while she supports gay rights, she believes teaching your child to accept transgender people as normal is wrong.
“What (the protestors) are talking about and what I’m adamantly against is people trying to normalize upon children trans, picking your gender,” she said.
Many protestors were concerned about Owens’ previously stated views on climate change and nationalism. In an interview with Joe Rogan, Owens said she doesn’t believe in climate change and, according to Business Insider, infamously defended nationalism saying Hitler would have been “OK” had he not tried to globalize.
“Whenever we say 'nationalism,' the first thing people think about, at least in America, is Hitler. You know, he was a national socialist, but if Hitler just wanted to make Germany great and have things run well, OK, fine,” she said at a Turing Point USA event in December 2018.
Despite being known for these ideas by many of the protestors, she didn’t speak much about climate change or nationalism at the event.
Young Americans for Liberty had a desk set up outside Angelle Hall during the seminar. According to YAL Member Madison Price, the organization was not there to support or protest Candace Owens’ appearance at UL Lafayette but rather to start a conversation about free speech. Price feels like they were successful.
“For the most part, we just tried to kind of open up a dialogue with the protestors,” Price said. “For the most part, there was a pretty basic consensus that censorship of bad ideas, of hate speech, of harmful rhetoric, doesn’t fix the problem it just sort of pushes it or hides it away. So I found some kind of hope in that that both sides kind of came to agree bad ideas aren’t simply ignored, they have to be beaten with better ones.”
Although his organization has not taken a stance on Owens, he personally has some qualms with her ideology.
“I feel like Candace basically just sees the world in either Democrat or Republican and the Democrats are the bad guys and that means the Republicans are the good guys and that sort of thought process, when it comes to politics, I don’t think is really that effective and I think it kind of polarizes more people than it brings people together,” he said.
Owens said she wanted the protestors to come inside, as she believed they would change their minds about her if they did.
“I would say to them that they should challenge themselves to just come in,” she said. “You can still protest, you can do that, but when you’re just standing there, holding a microphone and you’re saying who Candace Owens is and she’s actually here, you have the opportunity to confirm your suspicions you should take it.”