Right-wing commentator Lauren Southern is scheduled to speak on the University of Minnesota campus Wednesday at 7 p.m., and demonstrators are protesting the event.
As of 6:30 p.m., about 75 demonstrators were gathered at the Washington Avenue Bridge and chanting, "Show me what democracy looks like, this is what democracy looks like" and "Whose streets? Our streets."
University student groups Collegians for a Constructive Tomorrow and Students for a Conservative Voice organized the event, held in West Bank’s Anderson Hall.
Southern, a Canadian YouTube personality and self-proclaimed “identitarian,” — a white nationalist movement — is known for her criticisms of immigration policy, feminism, the LGBT community and the Black Lives Matter movement. She has become associated with “alt-right” figures like Milo Yiannopoulos and Richard Spencer. According to the Facebook event for her talk, Southern plans to address “the evils and inefficiencies of socialism and the necessity of free speech in political discourse.”
Demonstrators began organizing several days before the event. A call to protest Southern’s speech was posted on the anti-fascist website Conflict MN on Sunday.
Protesters were encouraged to bring friends and protect their identities from cameras.
Protest organizers also shared fliers noting the event’s funding on social media that read, “Shut down white supremacy paid for with your student service fees” while encouraging demonstrators to meet at the Washington Avenue Bridge prior to the event and bring signs.
On Facebook, the conservative student groups acknowledged the potential for demonstrations.
“We are well aware that there will be protestors at this event,” CFACT posted on the event’s Facebook page. “Do not engage with protestors. Respect their First Amendment rights as we ask them to respect our First Amendment right to host this event.”
Some attempted to dissuade students from attending by posting on the event’s Facebook page that it was cancelled.
“It’s really too bad this got cancelled,” one post read. “Hope she comes back soon!”
CFACT dispelled the rumors.
“Any information about the event being cancelled is fake news,” they said in a post.
As many as 104 people said they were attending the event. In a Facebook post Tuesday, organizers said the event was at full capacity and those not on a reserved ticket list would be turned away at the door by the University’s police department.
In an interview earlier Wednesday, University spokesperson Evan Lapiska said University police will turn people away if the event is at full capacity for safety reasons.
“Our top priority is public safety,” Lapiska said.
In emails to the Minnesota Daily, event organizers said the event was at max capacity.
In an emailed statement, Lapiska said the University is not hosting, endorsing or sponsoring the event.
“All registered student organizations are independent from the University,” the statement said. “As such, the relationship between the University of Minnesota and the sponsor of this event is solely that of licensor and licensee.”
CFACT and SCV are both registered student organizations funded by the University’s student service fee process.
David Clarey contributed to this report.