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Turning Point guest speaker event met with protest


The public event, a “conversation about Israel” hosted by student organization Turning Point, welcomed guest speaker Ian Haworth, members and student protestors, to discuss the Israel-Palestine conflict on Feb. 27.

UK’s Turning Point chapter President Katie Jefferson held the event at the Jacob’s Science Building with the hope that a productive conversation would happen between both sides. 

“About 10 minutes or so into the event, a flood of protestors came into the auditorium and sat down, which was totally fine, we had the event open to people with opposing viewpoints, we actually encouraged it,” Jefferson said. 

Turning Point is an American nonprofit organization dedicated to conservative politics with a chapter at UK

“The university required us to have a couple of UKPD officers in the room just because it was a controversial topic and they wanted it to be safe,” Jefferson said.

Jefferson said that Haworth made it known to the protestors that he would engage with questions at the end of the event, recalling he said so “three or four times.”

Haworth is an Oxford University graduate with a bachelor’s and master’s degree in computer science and is described as a “conservative writer, speaker and podcast host,” according to the Young America’s Foundation.

Signs with red hand prints scatter on the ground outside of a Turning Point event on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024, at University of Kentucky in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Najma Amarkhail

According to Jefferson, some of the protestors that were there “brought red paint and vandalized all of our posters that we had out and then stole all of them.”

Sajida Megariaf, a senior at UK, attended the event with the intention of having a conversation about the conflict. 

Megariaf said she and her peers were shocked about an event like this happening on their campus. 

“We went in and sat down and the event was going on. He started saying very problematic things and people started calling out ‘What are you talking about, 30,000 people are dead,’” Megariaf said.

She pointed out there were about 30 students there to disrupt the event and 15-20 Turning Point members on sight. One of these members initiated conversation with the protestors.  

“‘None of this. No productive conversation can happen when people are just yelling out. If you all would just be quiet and wait ‘til the end,’” she quoted. 

Jefferson said that she and the police agreed to give protestors at the event time to “calm down” before deciding to ask those protesting to leave.

“It was agreed between me and the officer that we were going to continue the event but only for people that had signed up with tickets because we had a ticketing system,” Jefferson said. “That’s not really what they (the officers) did. The officers kind of said ‘It’s canceled,’ and then they brought us back in, that’s not what I thought they were going to say.”

A police officer tells Sajida Megariaf to leave a Turning Point even on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024, at University of Kentucky in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Najma Amarkhail

Megariaf can be seen in footage from the event being asked to leave by a UKPD officer. Once she complies, an officer follows her out of the room. 

“If you don’t leave here on your own then you’re going to be arrested for trespassing,” one officer said to Megariaf in the footage. “This is a sanctioned event. There are rules for them sanctioned events.”

Megariaf said she decided it was in her best interest to comply. 

“I’ll be damned if I get arrested over some idiot spouting foolishness, so I was like you know what? I’ll walk out,” she said. 

Another protestor, Najma Amarkhail commented “Our U.S. tax dollars are funding this genocide. Remember that,” to which Rabbi Shlomo Litvin, Director Chabad of the Bluegrass & the UK Jewish Student Center, responded with “Thank you for your contribution,” according to Najma. 

After Megariaf left the auditorium, her friend (who remained inside) informed her that all protestors had been asked to leave. 

“We were like, ‘Wow, okay, we disrupted it successfully.’ That was our whole thing, we don’t want this individual to even have space to speak at our institution,” Megariaf said.

Megariaf noticed that even though protestors were informed that the event had been canceled, Turning Point members were allowed to remain in the auditorium. 

“Anybody who was visibly brown was not allowed inside. The only people in the auditorium that were allowed in and continued to be in the auditorium were white,” Megariaf said.

In another video, protestors are filmed outside the doors to the auditorium with cops blocking the doors to go inside. 

“The cops were being rude. They were being so rude. They were like ‘I can explain it to you, but I can’t understand it for you,’” Megariaf said she recalled one cop saying when she asked for an explanation as to why she was not allowed inside. 

Megariaf and her peers remained outside the auditorium, chanting. 

People chant outside of a Turning point event on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024, at University of Kentucky in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Najma Amarkhail

“So at this point, they had lied to us, profiled us, not allowed us back in and we’re standing there and we’re just like, ‘What is going on?’ And then the fire alarm goes off,” Megariaf said. “Officers were like ‘Everybody needs to evacuate. If you do not evacuate, you’ll be evacuated in cuffs,’ and we were like, ‘Nobody’s resisting to evacuate, but are the people inside going to be evacuated as well?’” Megariaf said.

According to Megariaf, the police informed her that those inside the auditorium would be evacuating as well.

“‘Well, are the people on site gonna be evacuating as well, right?’ He was like, ‘Yes, of course, everybody’s evacuating,’” Megariaf said.

Jefferson said that police told her that they believed a protestor had pulled the fire alarm.

“I don’t think they knew the name of the person that did but they think that the protesters had pulled the fire alarm,” Jefferson said. 

The fire alarm was not meant for those in attendance for the Turning Point event to evacuate.

“So we stayed. Our event was wrapping up at that point, so we were only in there for a few minutes after that,” Jefferson said. 

Megariaf and other protestors were able to observe this from outside the auditorium. 

“We wait outside and then we realize there’s windows into the auditorium. We go and we’re looking into the window and the event’s going on as usual,” Megariaf said. 

She noted that after the event had concluded, everyone inside the auditorium was escorted to their cars by the cops.

The escorting was an idea of Jefferson’s. As individuals were reaching the garage, protestors went to the garage as well. 

“I understand it’s such a sensitive topic and that people are upset. I don’t blame either side for being upset because both sides see it different ways. Our goal for the event was to be able for everybody to have their side heard in a respectful way, and unfortunately, that didn’t happen,” Jefferson said. 

Iman Hassan, another senior at UK, also attended the event that night. 

“I requested several times for him (Haworth) to cite his sources because many of the claims that he was saying were just completely out there,” Hassan said. “If you’re trying to educate this population of students within a university about what’s happening, you should be able to cite your sources.”

Hassan noted that white individuals were escorted to their cars and protected by police on sight, but no individuals were worried about the rest of the population’s safety at the event. 

“It worries me because if we are inviting these people to speak on our campus, then what already exists on our campus?” Hassan said.

People gather outside the doors of a Turning Point event on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024, at University of Kentucky in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Najma Amarkhail

Hassan’s main concern while at the event was her safety, she said.

“I’m a Palestinian. If anything, I felt unsafe hearing the remarks come out of this guest speaker. He’s not an official member of the University of Kentucky, hearing remarks come out of his mouth inciting the genocide of my people, as a Palestinian, should I not then fear for my safety if you’re saying it’s okay to murder my family?” Hassan said.

Haworth sent out a series of posts to X regarding the event and what happened during the event as well as after the event. 

“My speech on Israel and October 7 has been temporarily shut down by Palestinian protesters. The heckler’s veto is not free speech. It’s a tool of fascists to silence speech they don’t want to hear,” was posted from his account (@ighaworth) during the event. 

Haworth continued to post the day after the event. 

“They lost their minds the second I quoted Hamas. Tells you everything you need to know” was his response to a post on X with footage from the event the night prior. 

Another post to X was in response to a piece of footage from the event that featured the protestors and their chants. 

“‘Ian Hayworth, you can’t hide. We charge you with genocide.’ 1) Mispronouncing my name is racist. 2) When you blame a British Jew who lives in America for an imaginary genocide committed by Israel…it might be because you really hate Jews,” Haworth posted to X.   

According to Jefferson, there will not be another Turning Point event this year, as they typically only hold one per semester. 

After these events, Megariaf said she hopes that UK takes a stand for its Arab and Muslim students.

“I would love for the university to finally speak up … As an institution that has taught and been home to so many Palestinians and so many Arabs and Muslims, it is honestly inexcusable at this point that the university in general has yet to make a statement on anything,” she said. “At the very very very bottom of the barrel, at the very least, a statement of support.”


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