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Monday, November 28, 2022

Activities & Organizations

Visit from Matt Walsh causes controversy, student protests


Students protested against Matt Walsh’s transphobic views. | Atirikta Kumar/The Cougar

Right-wing political commentator Matt Walsh visited UH Thursday night to discuss his documentary, “What is a Woman?” This was met with backlash from some of the student body and a protest was held to stand up against Walsh’s views.

The event was hosted by the UH chapter of Young Conservatives of Texas and the Young America’s Foundation. Chairman of the YCT at UH and Student Government Association senator Mikel Moore described his feelings about Thursday’s event.

“We believe most members of the University are supportive of the event, of showing the movie and having these conversations,” Moore said. “That there is a delineation between the genders, and those should be defined in a way that everyone can agree on.”

In a video uploaded by Texas Fully Loaded, Moore is seen falsely stating the protest was called off because it was “deemed unsafe.”

A member of YCT and organizer James Vaughan believes that UH has been more inclusive when allowing events to be held on campus.

“Inclusivity is a good thing. I think the University does a good job of being more inclusive,” Vaughan said. “They try to be hands-off and allow political-registered student organizations to have their events and are more interested in promoting free speech than not.”

YCT fought efforts to censor their message, as opposing students and members removed over 100 flyers of the event throughout the week, according to Vaughan.

“It sucks to see because you work so hard to have this happen. And then people are committing a crime and destruction of property. I don’t enjoy seeing that,” Vaughan said. 

After hundreds gathered inside and a massive crowd surrounded the building, Walsh began his speech by addressing the protestors.

“What kind of future can a country have when you’re met with protests for discussing basic biological realities on a college campus?” said Walsh. “I’m being protested because I have come here to defend my position.”

Student and protest speaker David Paul Hilton rallied the crowd by shared how while he is straight and cisgender, he stands in solidarity with his transgender friends and colleagues.

“It is important that us Cougars show up and say loud and proud that we as students do not support this,” Hilton said. “I’m so glad that all of you have shown up.”

UH student and one of the protest organizers Landon Richie stated how he and others spread the word about the protest, wanting to show the opposing side that transphobia and hate speech will not be tolerated.

“We’re just wanting to show the power of the student body and the power of the support that we have for our community,” Richie said.

Richie also discussed the violence Walsh has encouraged and hopes the University was unaware of it when allowing Walsh to speak.

“The University is in a tricky spot, but we are hoping that they will better evaluate and vet the type of people that they approve to have a platform on campus,” Richie said. “If it did know then it’s even more disappointing that they would permit this sort of rhetoric to fester and proliferate on campus.”

SGA graduate-at-large senator Michael Abel said he attended the screening because it’s important to have a place to share conflicting opinions, noting that the protestors have a right to continue protesting.

“This is obviously something that’s highly controversial that’s going on on-campus, but I’m someone who supports free speech whether or not I agree with what’s being said,” Abel said. 

Aside from the UH community, students from other colleges were also in attendance. Rice University mechanical engineering junior, Bradley Ramsey attended the screening to hear different opinions and also mentions the satirical aspect of “What is a Woman?”

“Hearing a difference of opinion and difference in voice compared to every other speaker that we have on local campuses in Houston is interesting,” Ramsey said.

Members of Houston United Front Against Fascism spoke to students and protestors, discussing Walsh’s claims that the Tea Party movement would have accomplished more if they enacted violence.

Member David Michael Smith also touched on his group’s want to help UH students and local activists, stating that Walsh doesn’t deserve a UH platform.

“He makes jokes about calling himself a theocratic fascist, but there’s nothing funny about that,” Smith said. “He’s anti trans, he’s homophobic, he’s sexist as he can be. He’s racist. And he encourages violence.”

The UH Police Department worked with local law enforcement to ensure the safety of those in attendance, later taking action and arresting a student soon after the protest began.

“UH recognizes and supports the constitutional rights of free speech and peaceful assembly,” the UH System said in a statement sent to The Cougar from spokesperson Chris Stipes.

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