— Denver ABC (@DenverABC) March 19, 2017
On Saturday, March 18, the right-wing group “Turning Point USA” (TPUSA) held its Mountain Western Regional Conference at the Grand Hyatt Denver. Antifascist activists confronted attendees; two people were arrested. Turning Point, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, primarily markets right-wing ideologies to students on college campuses.
TPUSA is known for keeping a “watch list” of professors that it seeks to get fired for teaching about racism and other social issues, and was recently exposed funneling thousands of dollars into efforts to swing college student government elections rightwards.
TPUSA has also used their official social media brand to spread a meme stating that “hate speech is just free speech liberals don’t like.”
Turning Point’s chapter at the University of Colorado at Boulder was responsible for hosting former Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos, who has regularly incited acts of violence at his campus appearances, for a speaking event earlier this year on January 25. Just a few weeks after his TPUSA-sponsored appearance in Boulder, Milo Yiannopoulos resigned from Breitbart in disgrace after comments surfaced in which he advocated support for pedophilia, arguing for social acceptance of sexual relationships between older men and “young boys”.
Ivan Throne was a featured speaker at Turning Point’s Denver conference, a local resident who profits from books, speaking engagements, and seminars. Throne promotes what he calls a “Dark Triad” theme, which appears to be a gloomy repackaging of Men’s Rights Activist (MRA) and pick-up-artist (PUA) material, advocating dehumanizing women by reducing them to their “wife value.”
Recent social media posts by Throne indicate he is looking to capitalize on the young conservative followers of TPUSA to boost sales of his “Dark Triad” books and related materials which includes advice such as “how to fight like a psychopath.”
Also invited to address TPUSA attendees was Juan Caro, who sits on the board of the Larimer County, Colorado Republican Party, and is a member of the Phi Kappa Tau fraternity at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, CO.
Local antifascists had previously demonstrated outside the Grand Hyatt Denver on February 22, demanding that the hotel back out of hosting Turning Point USA’s Mountain Western Regional Conference and initiated a call-in campaign with the same goal.
When the Grand Hyatt Denver did not cancel this event despite local residents expressing concern, pickets outside the event were announced for 9 a.m. and 6 p.m..
Early Saturday morning, March 18th, antifascist activists confronted TPUSA attendees, both inside, and, outside the conference. Two people were arrested by Denver Police officers after leaving the Grand Hyatt, and were charged with Destruction of Property and Possession of Graffiti Materials. Another individual was arrested later in the day after allegedly pulling a fire alarm inside the Grand Hyatt where the conference was taking place.
Video posted to Twitter around 10 a.m. on Saturday by Turning Point’s executive director Charlie Kirk shows anti-fascist protesters confronting conference attendees. One Turning Point attendee can be heard yelling “Yeah I’m a Nazi!” while another repeatedly says “Thank you, officers” to the Denver Police who were present separating the antifascists from TPUSA conference-goers.
TPUSA attendees, when demonstrating against the antifascists gathered outside the hotel, often chanted “Blue Lives Matter” or “Back the Blue” which was met with smiles from police officers. After the event concluded, one TPUSA conference attendee tweeted his thanks to Denver Police for arresting anti-fascists:
— Alex Beck (@realAlexBeck) March 19, 2017
Antifascists gathered outside the Grand Hyatt again around 5 p.m., and groups of TPUSA attendees would periodically come out of the hotel to gather across from them at the sidewalk and the two groups exchanged insults and chanted at each other.
At one point, when the TPUSA crowd had gone back inside, the masked antifascists moved to take up both sides of the entrance to the hotel, including the area where TPUSA people had previously been demonstrating.
After a few minutes passed, TPUSA attendees again came out from their event, and seeing that their previous spot had been taken, moved to try to surround the antifascists. At this point several altercations broke out, a TPUSA attendee’s sign was ripped, and Denver Police forcefully arrested two antifascist protesters.
Turning Point USA, through its executive director Charlie Kirk, is directly connected to the right-wing Breitbart website. Former Breitbart national security editor Sebastian Gorka, a member of the new Trump administration who was recently exposed as a longtime member of a Hungarian pro-Nazi group, was paid to train Denver Police officers in “counterterrorism” last year, a Unicorn Riot investigation found (DPD officers were also paid to attend the event).
Turning Point USA has been vocal in their support for Donald Trump, and both major Denver Police unions – the Colorado Fraternal Order of Police and the Denver Police Protective Association – endorsed Trump for president. The apparent conflicts of interests regarding Denver Police officers defending TPUSA (whose right-wing views have been endorsed by Denver Police organizations) led some to question the neutrality of law enforcement who were present that day, who only arrested antifascists when TPUSA attendees engaged in fistfights with them.
Confrontations, mostly verbal, continued between the two groups as the evening wore on, with the bulk of the TPUSA group eventually marching away from the hotel while chanting “back the blue.”
Several antifascists remained outside the Grand Hyatt for another half hour or so, with a group of police hanging out keeping tabs on them. Both the police assigned to protect TPUSA’s conference and the antifascist protesters eventually dispersed from the area around 7 p.m.. All 5 known arrestees were bonded out of jail, either that night, or the next morning, according to the Denver Anarchist Black Cross.
Unicorn Riot spoke with an anonymous member of the People’s Protection League, an anti-racist community organization in Denver, about Saturday’s events. They told us they thought it was important to confront groups such as TPUSA “because of normalization [of “alt-right” ideology] and the brainwashing of kids. People there ranged from seemingly innocent and genuine kids to straight up Nazis.”
This person also stressed the importance of direct confrontation with fascist-leaning groups such as TPUSA in order to “build a strong narrative to inoculate the movement against liberal and conservative labeling.” When asked about the attempts to confront and shut down TPUSA’s regional conference taking place inside the Grand Hyatt, they said,
“We had five arrests and most of our aggressive actions failed, but we had a decent bloc in the morning and hopefully it will make hotels hesitant to host [similar events in the future]. At some point an insurance company has to draw the line on what the hotel can do.“
We reached out to the Grand Hyatt Denver for comment on Saturday’s events, they said they would get back to us with their comment but have not done so as of Sunday, March 19. We will update this story to include their comment in the event that we receive it.