Hundreds of people, including several dozen students, greeted right-wing internet commentator Candace Owens with raucous applause Wednesday evening in Depew, where she spoke against feminism, climate science, abortion and LGBTQ+ people.
The speech was presented by UB’s chapter of Turning Point USA (TPUSA), a national conservative advocacy organization, and sponsored by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.
The event was originally scheduled to take place in the Center for Tomorrow on UB’s North Campus, but it was instead held at The Grapevine Banquets in Depew, near the Buffalo Niagara International Airport, after TPUSA cited problems with “ticket restrictions.” TPUSA members tabling in the Student Union Wednesday morning said the event was moved to avoid disruption from opposition on campus.
In recent semesters, student groups at UB hosted controversial conservative speakers including Michael Knowles, Riley Gaines and Allen West, drawing large protests on campus. One protester was arrested and charged with harassment, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct at Knowles’ speech in March.
Wednesday’s speech drew a much smaller crowd of around 20 protesters, who picketed on the roadside with signs that read, “Silence = death,” “No justice, no peace” and “No hate at Buffalo.”
After walking onstage to Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road,” Owens ran through a laundry list of conservative hot topics. She said that young people today are “just making things up” because they have no real problems, encouraged audience members to watch police body camera footage from this March’s school shooting in Nashville because it is a “stunning display of manhood,” and blasted the 2020 rap song “WAP” for its “promiscuity,” which she said “destroys families.”
Owens called the LGBTQ+ community a “looped-together alphabet mafia where you’re required to defend each other,” and called on gay and lesbian people to stop supporting transgender rights.
She asked students clustered in the front of the room, “Is this one of those schools where you guys are required to put your pronouns in every classroom?” Several TPUSA volunteers promptly answered, “Yes.” UB does not require students to state their pronouns.
During a Q&A following the speech, Owens blamed China for climate change, expressed support for Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy and dismissed the COVID-19 pandemic as an election-cycle hoax. She also called New York and California “communist states” and encouraged audience members to move elsewhere.
One attendee asked Owens about her stance on abortion in cases of rape, a question that drew scorn from the crowd.
“One thing the left is great at, is arguing in extremes,” Owens said in response. “‘What if you are a 10-year old and you are raped and you get pregnant?’ Right? Rather than addressing the fact that 99.9% of the abortions that we’re dealing with are not in those circumstances at all, and it’s just people that are having promiscuous sex and wanting to get rid of their children because they’re not prepared to be parents.”
In a statement posted on its website, the UB Graduate Student Association condemned Owens’ rhetoric and TPUSA’s efforts as counterproductive, citing an incident earlier this month in which TPUSA operatives at Arizona State University chased and shoved a queer professor while recording a video of him.
“We do not believe that Turning Point USA treats UB as a place for learning, discovery, and genuine intellectual engagement; for them, UB is a prop in a predictable melodrama designed to divide and antagonize,” the statement read.
Nicholas Abbott, Emma Mendola and Sarah Owusu contributed reporting to this story
Sol Hauser is a news editor and can be reached at email@example.com