Charlie Kirk, the face of the right-wing organization Turning Point USA, spoke on October 27th at the Emerald Valley Golf Club. It is a leg of his Exposing Critical Racism Tour, which is traversing college towns across the country. Originally, the event was going to be on the University of Oregon campus, but the university has since denied affiliation with them. The venue changed three more times after that, the first being the Graduate Hotel, then the Holiday Inn in Springfield, and finally, the Golf Club. After word got out about the event, opposition was swift. Organizers of the event announced that the venue address and directions will be provided 24 hours before the event in an effort to keep themselves away from the justified push back they faced.
What is Turning Point?
Turning Point USA is an organization that was founded in 2012 to challenge leftist and liberal ideas on college campuses, and known mostly for posting incendiary and trolling content online. Funded by wealthy conservative interests, they want to both incite the left and indoctrinate anyone they can through a proto-fascist approach, with subtler tactics than overt fascists.
They are also well known for their Professor Watchlist, where they regularly add profiles on faculty who are part of the “intolerant left.”
On January 6th, the day of the capitol insurrection, Charlie Kirk proudly declared in a Tweet that:
“This historic event will likely be one of the largest and most consequential in American history…Turning Point Action are honored to help make this happen, sending 80+ buses full of patriots to DC to fight for this president.”Charlie Kirk, Twitter
Though quickly deleted, it points to the dark intentions that lurk just below the surface.
The journey to Turning Point USA was arduous, as expected, for Charlie Kirk was booted from the city of Eugene thanks to the work of local antifa cells. We drove down a poorly-lit highway, eight miles from campus. We were told upon arrival that the event had reached capacity, but getting into the overflow room was comically easy. There was no “airport level” security as promised on the Eventbrite page, only two men in suits trying to be intimidating. The lobby was a sea of middle-aged white people donning flannels and vests, with a smattering of young republicans. Nobody had masks on. Charlie Kirk’s speech was broadcast from large speakers. One quick-thinking man propped up his phone, playing the livestream. The crowd smiled and nodded, cheering when Kirk said something particularly bigoted, or made a joke at the right juncture.
The first person I struck up a conversation with was a woman in her forties, with blonde hair and a bad tan. She recommended we try Ivermectin for preventing COVID. Next, a man passed by me in the crowd. He wore a vest with many patches, but the one that caught my eye read,
“My dick is hard for America.”
I wondered if that was true. He had a much larger patch that read “PROUD BOYS OF PORTLAND.” It was appalling, but not surprising, to see an overt Nazi walking around, welcome at a mainstream conservative event.
We lasted for about an hour before packing up and leaving. Charlie Kirk made more jokes about Idaho being amazing and Oregon football than he talked about Critical Race Theory; yet Kirk commanded the room he spoke to, filled to the brim with eager conservatives, some of which traveled hours to come see him.
Having a dialogue with the people of Eugene was never the point—he was speaking to the same base he always does.