Candace Owens, a prominent conservative commentator and political activist, was met with fierce protests before delivering a fiery anti-leftist speech on campus Monday night.
At the April 15 event in College Hall, which was co-hosted by Penn College Republicans and conservative group The Statesman, Owens criticized the #MeToo movement and sarcastically said women “never lie." Owens also claimed that black people were being misled by the Democratic Party.
Student groups such as the Penn Association for Gender Equity, Lambda Alliance, and the United Minorities Council denounced Owens' ideology, criticizing her opposition to the Black Lives Matter movement and her past insensitive comments on transgender individuals.
Minutes before the event, leftist and anti-fascist protestors voiced their disapproval of Owens' presence. About 20 anti-fascist protestors from Philadelphia Antifa wore ski masks and bandanas and gathered on College Green, shouting "F**k Candace Owens" and "F**k the police." PAGE protestors also gathered in a silent demonstration against Owens inside College Hall.
UMC Chair and College sophomore Kevin Zhou said the 6B — Penn's six main minority coalition groups — met prior to Monday’s event to discuss the response and to denounce Owens.
“We all know what she’s been doing around here. A lot of mocking, a lot of racist statements, saying racism doesn’t exist, mocking sexual assault victims,” Zhou said. “UMC was in full support of [the protest].”
College freshman Kate Silva, who silently protested against Owens inside College Hall, said Owens approached her and other protesters while she was inside. Silva said while Owens was “polite” in her interactions with them, she disputed their criticisms of her.
“She was coming over and looking at a lot of the posters and then asking students who were holding posters to give her examples of when she had said things or done things,” Silva said.
At the event, Owens sharply attacked the #MeToo movement and questioned why black Americans would be supportive of the anti-sexual assault campaign.
“The concept that we should just believe women is exactly what got my ancestors lynched,” Owens said. “We’ve learned our lesson the hard way with that.”
Owens also promoted the “Blexit” movement, a campaign she launched that encourages black Americans and other minorities to leave the Democratic Party. From 1972 to 2016, the Democratic presidential candidate received an average of 87% of the black vote, FiveThirtyEight reported.
“We’ve given our vote for the last 60 years to the Democrat[ic] Party and we have absolutely nothing to show in return,” Owens said. “Why the hell did Hillary Clinton get 89% of the black vote when it was her husband, while she was with him in the Oval Office, that locked up more black men than any president in the history of the United States with his Three Strikes [law]?”
On Twitter, Owens described the protestors as the "neo-KKK" in a video filmed outside College Hall.
Penn Democrats Political Director and College sophomore Owen Voutsinas-Klose said Owens' views were “dead wrong on so many things,” and that the event’s organizers should have chosen a different speaker.
“I think CRs and the Statesman should be ashamed of themselves for inviting her,” Voutsinas-Klose said. “She continuously accuses the Democratic Party of racism, when she goes out of her way to ignore the white supremacists in her own party.”
Owens serves as the director of communications for the conservative advocacy group Turning Point USA and frequently travels to college campuses to deliver talks criticizing progressives and the Democratic Party.
President Donald Trump tweeted his praise for Owens in 2018, calling her "wonderful to watch." Owens also recently testified in front of the House Judiciary Committee for a hearing on white nationalism after being invited by Republicans, and drew attention when she described the Republican Party's "Southern strategy" as a "myth."
The term refers to the way Republicans appealed to white Southern voters who opposed civil rights and left the Democratic Party in the 1960s and 1970s. Owens' statement, however, was determined to be false by fact-checker Politifact.
Owens repeated the claim at Penn Monday night and denied the Southern strategy again.
“Why did the Republicans not have a majority of Congressional seats in the South until 1994 if [the "Southern strategy"] worked,” Owens said. “You cannot say with a sane head that the South became more racist over time.”
The Statesman President and College junior Sydney Gwynn wrote in an email to The Daily Pennsylvanian that Owens' speech was a success and that Penn resources were used productively by hosting the controversial speaker.
"We felt that bringing her to campus would benefit the Penn community as she presents a viewpoint that is not well represented on campus," Gwynn said.
"The Antifa 'protestors' had pretty much no impact on the event. Our report on their pre-event threats really boosted our website's daily views though, so they actually ended up helping us in a way."
College Republicans Communications Director and Wharton freshman Corey Paredes declined to comment on the event and the protests.