Young Americans for Freedom (YAF), a Student Association-recognized club that advocates for conservative beliefs on campus, hosted Michael Knowles, a conservative political commentator, on Thursday night in Slee Hall.
Knowles’ speech, titled “How Radical Feminism Destroys Women (And Everything Else),” detailed his views on feminist ideology and what he sees as its detrimental effects on society, specifically women.
Following his recent remarks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) calling for “transgenderism” to be “eradicated from public life entirely,” many rallied to express their dissatisfaction with Knowles’ statements.
The protests outside of Slee Hall followed a push to get UB to cancel the event. Some protesters chanted “shut it down” outside the venue.
Gathering in opposition to Knowles’ statements with posters, flags and free T-shirts, attendees waited in a line that stretched from Slee to Alumni Arena.
Protesters recited chants like: “This is what freedom looks like, this is what a fascist looks like.”
Protestors exchanged verbal blows with Knowles’ supporters throughout the night. One specific encounter took place across a metal security barrier, where a heated argument between a protester holding a picket sign reading “My Heroes Kill Fascists” and those waiting in line resulted in a yelling match. The men aggressively pointed fingers and spoke over one another, with one shouting, “Go riot somewhere else.”
Kylie Naylor, a junior studio art major, recalls a conversation that motivated her to protest.
“I have a very close friend of mine who is trans, and she recently messaged me explaining that she was terrified at the current climate,” she said. “I told her that I’d do anything I could to protect her. When I found out this was going on, it kind of felt obligatory. Also, I’m gay, so if I don’t do that, that’s kind of stupid.”
Alternatively, Knowles supporter and sophomore business major Cameron Tiutiunnyk said that the controversy Knowles’ comments created was “drawn out.”
“I’m a big fan of his. I don’t think he deserves as much hate as he gets,” he said. “He just preaches family values and nice conservative values too, which I feel is something society could use a little bit more of.”
The event reached capacity at 7:20 p.m., with protesters cheering outside as attendees continued to wait in line. Protesters yelled at waiting attendees to go home.
They chanted “hey hey, ho ho, Michael Knowles has got to go.”
Gathered to protest Knowles’ controversial remarks, the support of the community prompted emotions from those in the crowd.
“The moment I got here I got teared up just to see straight people, queer people, old people, young people,” a protester, Holly Clark-Porter, said. “The whole diversity of humanity is here pouring out their love for trans folks and pouring out their love against hate speech.”
The event concluded and attendees exited while police ensured there was a clear path through the crowd. Protestors pressed up against the barricades with posters and flags, chanting, “Walk of shame.”
University officials released a statement Thursday night saying that Knowles’ speech “concluded without major incident.”
“We are proud of the way our campus exhibited the values we hold as a university, exercising its right to peacefully express its views,” Brian F. Hamluk, vice president for Student Life, said in the statement. “Despite being confronted with hateful and dehumanizing rhetoric, the UB community reaffirmed our university’s commitment to ideals of inclusion, justice and equity for our trans community, and for all who are marginalized, disenfranchised and oppressed.”
Kiana Hodge is a news editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Katie Skoog is a features editor and can be reached at email@example.com
Morgan Ross is an assistant news editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Morgan Ross is an assistant news/features editor.