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Protests Surrounded Kyle Rittenhouse Event at Kent State University

by Annemarie Karabinus, Reporter, Kentwired - akarabin@kent.edu

KENT, Ohio — Tensions flared at Kent State University on Tuesday, as Kyle Rittenhouse, known for his acquittal after the 2020 Kenosha shootings, spoke at an event hosted by the local chapter of Turning Point USA. The visit sparked significant campus unrest, featuring protests, a high security presence, and debates about free speech.

Rittenhouse, who became a divisive figure in national discourse, addressed an audience Tuesday evening amid tight security which included police officers stationed on library rooftops and drones monitoring the crowd. The event, not officially sanctioned by the university, still drew substantial attention, both supportive and critical.


Earlier in the day, over 100 protesters gathered, voicing their opposition and concern. A poignant moment was marked by chalk inscriptions bearing the names of hate crime victims and images of those Rittenhouse shot in Kenosha, underscoring the community's palpable tension.


Kent State, a campus historically synonymous with protests and the tragic 1970 shootings by the National Guard, found itself again at a crossroads of protest and dialogue. University spokesperson Emily Vincent emphasized the institution's commitment to free speech. "We cannot ban speech because it would go against a core value and because of well-established laws governing free speech on public university campuses," Vincent stated. She highlighted the university's long-standing tradition of fostering dialogue encompassing a spectrum of viewpoints. These comments were in response to student petitions that garnered over 5,000 total signatures in the hopes of preventing Rittenhouse from being allowed to speak on campus.


In response to Rittenhouse's presence, a consortium of student organizations held a press conference and a concurrent "teach-in" to educate attendees on the broader implications of Rittenhouse's actions and affiliations. The group publicly denounced Rittenhouse's connection to far-right movements.


Despite rumors and plans for a student walkout, reports from the ground indicated a lack of widespread coordinated action. However, the atmosphere remained charged, with many students expressing discomfort and a desire to distance themselves from the event as a safety precaution.


Additional news coverage on this, from other local networks, can be found at the following sources:


  • Kent Wired, "Hey ho, Rittenhouse has got to go: Students protest on the K," published on April 16, 2024. Available online.

  • Ideastream, "Kent State Students Turn Out to Protest Kyle Rittenhouse’s Campus Visit," published on April 16, 2024. Available online.

  • News 5 Cleveland, "Protest, walkout planned ahead of Kyle Rittenhouse's Kent State University visit Tuesday," published on April 16, 2024. Available online.


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