UPDATE: This story has been updated to include a statement from SFLA chapter president Autumn Walser.
- Two people were arrested on Wednesday at Virginia Commonwealth University after a protest against two pro-life speakers became unruly, the university confirmed to the Daily Caller News Foundation.
- Kristan Hawkins, Students for Life of America president, and Isabel Brown, Turning Point USA contributor, were removed from the room by law enforcement after protesters reportedly assaulted attendees.
- “Protection of both free speech rights and personal safety didn’t seem to be the priority last night,” Caroline Wharton, SFLA press strategist & staff writer, told the DCNF.
Two people were arrested at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) on Wednesday evening after a protest against two pro-life speakers became unruly, the university told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
Students for Life of America (SFLA) President Kristan Hawkins and Turning Point USA (TPUSA) contributor Isabel Brown spoke at VCU as part of SFLA’s spring tour titled “Lies Pro-Choicers Believe,” according to the SFLA chapter’s Instagram. The speakers were interrupted by protesters and eventually escorted from the room by campus police, according to a compilation video posted on Students for Life Action’s Twitter. (RELATED: One Arrested At Campus Protest Against Conservative Speaker Who Called To ‘Eradicate’ Transgenderism)
“The student organization ‘Students for Life at VCU’ invited a pro-life speaker to its meeting, which was open to the public and attracted about 70 people,” Corey Byers, VCU senior public relations specialist, told the DCNF. “The meeting was disrupted by the unruly conduct of some attendees, and VCU Police were called at about 5:40 p.m.”
Natalie Hoskins, III, 22, of Richmond was charged by VCU police with simple assault and Anthony Marvin, 30, of Richmond was charged with disorderly conduct, Byers said. Neither are affiliated with the university.
“The police situation last night was very odd. School police refused to stop the violent protesters who were attempting a Hecklers’ Veto by shoving and shouting,” Caroline Wharton, SFLA press strategist & staff writer, told the DCNF. “Instead, they asked Students for Life of America President Kristan Hawkins to leave; she refused to stop the event as she was peacefully exercising her First Amendment rights.”
Protesters chanted “fuck pro-life” and “fascists go home” during the speech, according to the video. Hawkins asked the protesters if they would “like to Google the word fascist.”
Despite this situation, we will not be deterred. #ProLifeGen has come to expect these sort of things.
We demand that @VCU invite @KristanHawkins & @theisabelb back, ensuring the safety of all attendees, for what we tried to attempt this evening, a productive, peaceful discussion. pic.twitter.com/zWTAGPpu2x
— Students for Life Action (@SFLAction) March 30, 2023
SFLA chapter president Autumn Walser received a leg injury and other students were cut and scratched as protesters assaulted attendees, SFLA reported on its blog. Walser will receive campus security to protect her on campus, Hawkins said in a statement.
“I’m the club’s president and my leg was badly hurt during the second altercation. One of our staff was assaulted as well as another student in our club,” Walser told the DCNF. “They had some minor injuries like multiple cuts from being scratched and got hit with signs and a megaphone.”
The club was “shocked and very disappointed” with the school and students who showed a “complete lack of respect for our first amendment rights,” Walser said.
City police eventually arrived on the scene and shut down the event and “detained the pro-life students and leaders while Antifa and the other disruptors were allowed to leave,” Wharton told the DCNF. Protesters were later seen “in line for food on campus while SFLA members and students were still held up.”
“When they were released, police didn’t even walk SFLA leaders to their vehicles, making them pass protestors yet again with only their security,” Wharton said. “Protection of both free speech rights and personal safety didn’t seem to be the priority last night.”
We were then escorted into a locked room for about 2 hours for our own “safety” while violent protesters walked free & stood in line for Chick fil A (oh, the irony). We took questions from pro-life and pro-choice students alike both in the midst of the insanity and in the locked…
— Isabel Brown (@theisabelb) March 30, 2023
“As VCU is a public university, this was deeply disappointing to see,” Wharton continued. “We are currently in discussion with our legal counsel, and our desired outcomes thus far would be allowing the event to be done again (as it was silenced before being totally shut down); payment for the damaged and stolen audiovisual equipment; payment for personal injuries; a First Amendment training for all those who attended the event with a restated commitment to First Amendment principles; and payment of the costs for extra security needed due to this situation.”
The chapter will continue to operate as normal, Wisner told the DCNF.
“We will not be silenced by this heckler’s veto,” she said. “The SFLA legal team is trying to contact VCU officials to demand an apology and that we are guaranteed a safe and protected environment for future events. We have had to increase our personal security as we have been receiving threats.”
Brown and the VCU campus police did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
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