Protesters gather at ETSU ahead of Kyle Rittenhouse event

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JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Controversial figure Kyle Rittenhouse’s arrival at East Tennessee State University (ETSU) was met with protests Thursday evening.

Several dozen people gathered at The Quad on ETSU’s campus before Rittenhouse was scheduled to speak at the Brinkley Center. Some could be seen with signs bearing messages like “FASCISTS NOT WELCOME HERE!” and similar sentiments.

Photo: Protestors gathered on ETSU’s campus Thursday ahead of an event featuring Kyle Rittenhouse as a guest speaker. (WJHL)
Photo: Protestors gathered on ETSU’s campus Thursday ahead of an event featuring Kyle Rittenhouse as a guest speaker. (WJHL)

ETSU student group plans Rittenhouse protest

ETSU student group Turning Point USA arranged for Rittenhouse to speak on campus Thursday starting at 7 p.m. Rittenhouse was acquitted of homicide and other charges in 2020 after killing two men and wounding another during civil unrest in Wisconsin, to speak on campus.

Another student organization, the Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA), organized a petition asking the university to formally oppose the event. A university spokesperson said in a statement the Rittenhouse event was not sponsored by ETSU and canceling it would violate First Amendment rights. As such, the university claimed it would only cancel the event if a legitimate public safety concern was found.

The YDSA then announced it was organizing Thursday’s counter-protest to the Rittenhouse event.

Controversy at ETSU over Kyle Rittenhouse as guest speaker

Turning Point USA Lakie Derrick told News Channel 11 on Thursday that organizers still expect a large turnout for Rittenhouse, despite the possibility that tickets were claimed to prevent people from attending.

A clear bag policy is in effect for the “Rittenhouse Recap,” and those attending must pass through metal detectors.

News Channel 11’s crew on ETSU’s campus saw both Johnson City and ETSU police officers at the Brinkley Center hours prior to the event.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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