A conservative speaker’s appearance at Colorado State University started quietly but turned threatening when a group with riot shields, bats, large flashlights and gas masks charged at a crowd “while chanting a Nazi slogan,” USA Today reported.
Protesters were apparently angry about a speech at the Fort Collins college by conservative activist Charlie Kirk of Turning Point USA. The non-profit group promotes freedom, free markets, and limited government. The event was titled “Smashing Socialism.”
Campus police wearing riot gear were on hand at the event Friday evening and quickly dispersed the demonstration before it escalated.The melee happened just as the event was ending and the crowd was dwindling inside the Lory Student Center, according to USA Today.
Members of the campus’ socialist and anti-fascist groups were arguing about politics when the third group of about a dozen people charged at them, USA Today reported. Emeshe Amade, a CSU student, told USA Today she first thought the group were police breaking up the argument because of the gear they were wearing.
The campus police chief issued a dispersal order due to "a risk of an imminent threat of potential violence" following the speech, CSU spokeswoman Dell Ray Ciaravola told USA Today.
"A group was moving into the area and was confirmed to be armed with bats, shields and gas masks," she said, adding that fewer than 200 people were on the plaza at the time.
No arrests or serious injuries were reported.
The violent group is believed to have included members of the Traditionalist Worker Party. In an email Thursday, CSU President Tony Frank described them as a “Nazi group.”
"In a crowd this size, where emotions are running high and various groups arrive with a goal of violence to spread their fear, it's sad but not unexpected to have some level of conflict, but we had a solid security plan in place and it worked well to minimize any violence," Frank said in a statement.
"Our paramount concern from the beginning was to ensure that the student event could take place as planned and that those who wanted to exercise their right to peaceful protest could also do so," he explained.
What did organizers say?
Kirk said in his speech that his group is not a part of the ethno-nationalist movement.
"That BS they're trying to say out there," Kirk reportedly said. "It's not who we are, it's not what we believe, it's not what Turning Point believes."
"It's very funny, they say, 'Oh Charlie, you must be an ethno-nationalist because these four people with no lives show up outside your event. First of all, that's a bunch a nonsense. Second of all, I don't remember anyone saying that when all the communists show up to the Democrat events," he added.