West speaks amidst protest

Last Thursday, hundreds of people attended Lt. Col. Allen West’s talk about foreign policy and Islam. Many heard about the event beforehand because of the controversial flyers used for advertising the event and West’s comments about the Muslim Student Association.

Hosted by the College Republicans and sponsored by Young Americans for Freedom, the talk was held in the Center for Global Citizenship. Although many people came to hear West speak, others participated in a peaceful walkout protesting him.

Most protesters left once West came on stage, but some stayed for the entirety of his speech. The president of the College Republicans, Dylan McCloskey, said he wished more protesters had stayed to hear West and his perspective.

West addressed his controversial statement by asserting that he did not say all Muslims are evil. He stressed that Islamic terrorists exist, and they are an existential threat to the United States, and Muslims need to renounce terrorist organizations such as the Muslim Brotherhood.

McCloskey said the College Republicans considered changing speakers a week before the event, but it was already too late. They chose West because of his military and government experience. The event was not intended to be controversial, and instead was meant to be a critique on President Obama’s foreign policy. They also considered inviting Newt Gingrich or Ben Shapiro.

Department of Public Safety officers and Student Involvement Center employees were stationed at every door in the building to make sure the event ran smoothly. McCloskey stated, “The Student Involvement Center was involved from the very beginning, and even more during the event because of the controversy surrounding it.”

During the question-and-answer period, a female student attempted to ask a question by raising her hand, but was turned down because everyone was required to write their questions and turn them in to be reviewed then read aloud. She eventually walked out, but McCloskey said that West talked to her after the event and answered her questions.

McCloskey stated that if it were up to him, he would have conducted an open mic question-and-answer session, but the Student Involvement Center thought it would be best to review and ask the questions in a non-confrontational setting.

West began his talk by saying, “Tonight is a history lesson.” He continually referenced historical events and figures. West also spoke about his military experience and several tours in Afghanistan and Iraq.

He recalled the fondest memory from his tours: after the fall of Saddam Hussein and the Taliban, West enjoyed “watching little Afghan girls go to school. Something I know they did not have the chance to do.” He stressed the importance of realizing there are groups of Islamic extremists that are terrorists and a threat to the United States.

He spoke about terrorists on 9/11: “Those planes struck the World Trade towers and the Pentagon…no one went in looking for Republicans or Democrats, no one went in looking for blacks, whites or Hispanics. They went in to kill Americans.”

With Islamic terrorism, West said we are often told “we can’t rush to judgment.” He referenced Ferguson, Mo. and stated that “a lot of people rush to judgment there.”

West continued by speaking about the Islamic threat and stressing the importance of freedom and liberty in the United States.

“We have to start looking at the real enemy out there that is the enemy of liberty, the enemy of freedom. There is a reason why people come to the United States of America from all over the place. It’s because they believe they will have safety and security. They believe they can participate in the American dream and for whatever reason, we are allowing this incredibly violent ideology to come to these shores.”

Although the event started out being controversial, McCloskey was glad with the reception of West at the end of the event.

West received a standing ovation, and many people rushed to speak with him after his speech. McCloskey thought the protesters were respectful and not overly argumentative.

Some protesters were selling cupcakes with the proceeds going to Syrian refugees. McCloskey said he bought a cupcake and West donated money to the cause.