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Leader of conservative UNLV group removed over ‘white power’ video

Updated May 10, 2019 - 5:24 pm

A UNLV undergraduate who led the local chapter of a conservative student group has been kicked out of the organization after a video in which he said “white power” and flashed the A-OK hand gesture recently appropriated by white supremacists.

In the undated, 10-second video that went viral on Thursday, the student is seen with a young woman who twice uses a racial slur against African Americans. The video was posted online by anti-fascist website It’s Going Down, which identified the man as Riley Grisar, the president of the UNLV chapter of Turning Point USA.

Turning Point USA said they “swiftly and permanently removed the student from any current or future involvement with our organization” in a response posted Thursday night to Twitter.

A former UNLV student body president and chapter president of the College Republicans emailed a letter to the Review-Journal calling for the university to revoke Turning Point USA’s status as a student organization. In the email Mark Ciavola said he also sent the letter to UNLV’s administration and student government.

In the letter sent Saturday, Ciavola said that while UNLV is an open campus where “anyone has the right to make their voice heard,” the organization has violated UNLV’s Student Conduct Code and should no longer benefit from university resources.

Turning Point USA is “a national organization that thrives on conflict and divisiveness, creates an environment of exclusivity, and, at a time when our society is already politically polarized, appeals to the worst of our nature,” Ciavola said.

On Friday, the group commended the “decisive action taken by the UNLV chapter leadership” to remove the student as a member, adding that it has a “zero-tolerance policy for hate.”

UNLV spokeswoman Cindy Brown confirmed an undergraduate student named Riley Grisar attends the school. Brown said the local Turning Point USA chapter was registered at UNLV for the first time during this academic year.

“The abhorrent views and language expressed in the video are antithetical to the values of diversity and inclusion that we espouse at UNLV every day,” she said in a statement.

The video came a little more than a week after protesters confronted the group, which had set up a booth and written “build the wall” on, a mock border in the common area at the university.

Brown said both the video and incidents at the event have been “referred to the appropriate departments for review.”

Turning Point USA markets itself as as a nonprofit set out to build a powerful grassroots activist network on college campuses in the U.S. It was founded in 2012 by conservative commentator Charlie Kirk.

Its website shows it has four chapters in Nevada and hundreds at high schools and colleges across the country.

Contact Shea Johnson at sjohnson@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0272. Follow @Shea_LVRJ on Twitter. Review-Journal staff writer Katelyn Newberg contributed to this report.

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