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UNLV alum Tomi Lahren of Fox News draws protest at campus speech

Updated October 10, 2019 - 5:54 am

Fox News contributor and UNLV alumna Tomi Lahren returned to campus Wednesday night for a speech titled “Stay Triggered” that drew an auditorium of supporters as well as a group of protesters outside.

The event, hosted by conservative organization Turning Point USA at UNLV, came days after students at University of Nevada, Reno protested TPUSA founder Charlie Kirk being invited to their campus.

University police and administrators were present at the UNLV event, which was open to the public.

In her speech, Lahren touched on support for law enforcement and critiqued several Democratic presidential candidates, but took aim at what she described as a culture of victimhood prevalent on college campuses. Lahren graduated from UNLV in 2014.

Attendees CJ Campbell and Andrew Snow, who described themselves as fans of Lahren’s, said they heard about the event the day before at a booth on campus.

“It was like, oh wow, we’re here, let’s hear what she has to say,” Campbell said.

Campbell said he was drawn to a slogan on the flyer promoting the talk: “Worry less about who you might offend and pay attention to who you might inspire.”

Outside, a group of about 30 protesters held signs and chanted slogans as Lahren and others walked in. They stayed through the end of the event and traded verbal jabs with departing attendees.

Tyler Chalker, who organized the protest, said he wanted his fellow students to feel comfortable demonstrating against what he called hate speech. While Chalker said he would not support banning speakers from campus, he would instead want students to challenge them.

Chalker said that he is opposed to Turning Point USA, whose history at UNLV has been marked by racist incidents, including the ouster of a former president who flashed a white power hand sign in a viral video. Chalker said he is also opposed to Lahren because of her support of President Donald Trump.

“I worry that our tuition money is being used to bring people to campus who champion hate speech,” Chalker said, referring to student fees collected by the student government and doled out to campus clubs.

A number of bystanders observed the protests, including Dante Miller, a graduate student studying black conservatives in the age of Trump. Miller said the event and the reaction were on par with others he’d seen at college campuses, though UNLV’s status as one of the most diverse schools in the nation provided a unique context.

UNLV President Marta Meana was unavailable to comment Wednesday on the event, but she said in a panel on free speech Friday that while public campuses may not be able to ban controversial speakers, they could make their own stances clear.

In a letter to the campus dated Sept. 18, Meana also said: “Individuals advocating for a position, regardless of how presumptuous or offensive others may find it to be, does not necessarily cross into unlawful activity.”

Steph Landeros, a bystander, said such a response from university leadership was mediocre. Students at UNR have also expressed frustration with university leadership, whom they say has not adequately addressed other incidents of white nationalism on campus.

“We’re always discussing freedom of speech, but never the consequences of it,” Landeros said. “You may have a right to speak, but other people have the right to respond to you.”

Contact Aleksandra Appleton at aappleton@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0218. Follow @aleksappleton on Twitter.

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