Thursday, May 28

Bruin Republicans to continue to host potentially controversial speakers

Bruin Republicans has invited several notable conservative commentators to speak at UCLA, including Dennis Prager, a radio talk show host and founder of website Prager University. (MacKenzie Coffman/Daily Bruin)

This post was updated on May 17 at 6 p.m.

Bruin Republicans hosted numerous conservative speakers this school year, despite backlash against similar speakers at UCLA and other campuses.

Speaker events have always been a part of Bruin Republicans’ programming, said Alexis Moran, president of Bruin Republicans. On May 9, the club hosted Dennis Prager, a conservative talk show host and founder of website Prager University.

However, recent controversies around speakers who discuss contentious topics relating to undocumented immigrants, police officers and free speech have sparked protests.

For example, Milo Yiannopoulos, a British media personality who supports far-right political ideologies and a former editor at right-wing news site Breitbart, cancelled an appearance at UCLA partially due to threats of potential violence from protest groups and the inability of the club to meet his demands.

Student protesters also disrupted a talk titled “An Illegal Immigrant Killed My Child” by Sabine Durden, whose son was killed by an undocumented immigrant in an accident. She also toured with President Donald Trump during his presidential campaign.

College Republican organizations at other universities have had similar responses.

In a case that made national news, Ann Coulter had to cancel an appearance at the UC Berkeley, after the university said it could not accommodate her in part due to threats of violence.

People also protested against Yiannopoulos speaking at UC Berkeley, by destroying campus property and throwing rocks at police officers.

Despite the controversy and protest, Moran said Bruin Republicans invites conservative speakers of all types, even those with more controversial views or stances.

“We’ll bring speakers – we don’t necessarily agree with everything they have to say, but part of our membership will. It’s important for us to keep intellectual diversity within our club.”

Moran said Bruin Republicans usually tries to host at least one major speaker per quarter, such as Charlie Kirk, Steve Forbes and Heather McDonald. The club has also hosted smaller speaker events with local assembly members, speakers from conservative interest groups such as the California Rifle & Pistol Association and local attorneys from free speech organizations.

Moran said during election season, Bruin Republicans invited local and state representatives to educate its members about candidate positions. However, outside of election season, Bruin Republicans does not have a set formula to find speakers, she added.

“Sometimes the speakers will reach out to us, or sometimes we will reach out to them because of their popularity in the conservative movement amongst millennials,” she said.

Moran said one way the club invites speakers is by reaching out to them individually. For example, Bruin Republicans directly contacted Kirk, founder and executive director of a conservative youth advocacy group called Turning Point USA, to speak next week. Bruin Republicans has also reached out to organizations to sponsor its speaker events.

Some students said they attended Bruin Republicans’ latest event because they were familiar with Prager’s work and were interested in hearing him speak live.

Emma Gale, a first-year applied mathematics student, said she attended the event because she used to listen to Prager on the radio in middle school. She added Prager’s talk was her first Bruin Republicans event, and she might attend future events focusing on election candidates.

Alex Jiminez, a UCLA alumnus, said he came to listen to Prager speak because he read a lot on Prager in the past and was interested in attending Prager’s event in person. He added this is also the first Bruin Republicans event he’s attended.

“I’ve read a lot from the authors that are usually featured by Prager University,” he said. “I thought it would be cool to come see an actual live speech given by Dennis Prager.”

Jiminez said he would be interested in attending future Bruin Republicans events featuring influential conservative speakers.

Even with the backlash from some campus groups, Moran said Bruin Republicans will likely continue hosting conservative speakers for the foreseeable future, and that if students want to protest, the group hopes they will do so peacefully.

“We respect everyone’s First Amendment right to freedom of speech and believe that peaceful protesting falls under all American citizens’ freedom of speech,” Moran said.

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