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Informing the  Berea and Baldwin Wallace University Communities Since 1913

The Exponent

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Informing the  Berea and Baldwin Wallace University Communities Since 1913

The Exponent

Kyle Rittenhouse speech at Kent State sparks student protest

“College campuses are generally more liberal, and whether these students like it or not, they need to hear another side other than their own,” Sobolewski said.
Israel Gole
Protesters gather outside the Student Center, chanting and booing as Rittenhouse’s supporters leave the building after his speech.

On April 16, the Kent State University chapter of Turning Point USA hosted Kyle Rittenhouse to give a speech on campus, drawing crowds of both protesters and his ardent supporters into the same arena.   

Turning Point USA, a nonprofit organization that advocates for conservative causes on campuses, invited Rittenhouse to share his perspective on the importance of self-defense and to give his personal testimony in an auditorium of over 400 people. 

Rittenhouse became a controversial figure at age 17 after shooting three men, two fatally, in Kenosha, Wisconsin during the 2020 civil unrest following the police shooting of Jacob Blake. Rittenhouse was later acquitted by a jury on claims of self-defense.  

Many protesters at the event felt that Rittenhouse did not act in self-defense, as shown by signs displaying messages such as “Killer House” and “F— You Kyle Go Home.” 

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One protester, KSU student Ajane Eason, said she turned out to protest because Rittenhouse discussing the second amendment and self-defense did not sit well with her, and she said she is almost positive he was not acting in self-defense.  

“I always try to give someone the benefit of the doubt…but just the area he was in, the demographic of black, African American people there, it just doesn’t really sit well with us,” Eason said. 

Chrystina Cannon, a resident of Ravenna whose son graduated from KSU, said that she was protesting Rittenhouse speaking on a university like KSU, with its history of gun violence, calling the event “ugly.” 

“Of all places, all universities, Kent State is especially ugly,” Cannon said. “There’s still survivors of the kids that got killed here in 1970. I was five, I remember that, and the university should.” 

Cannon also said that she thinks these events are often hateful. 

“I think it’s ugly and apathetic of anyone to not give a s— about the hate that’s pouring out of these people, so I felt compelled to be here,” Cannon said. “Nothing that comes out of his [Rittenhouse’s] mouth is kind to anyone.” 

When asked by The Exponent how he would respond to protesters who said he was spreading hate, Rittenhouse said: “Me giving a pro-life speech saying everybody here has the right to defend themselves and the right to live… I don’t know how that’s spreading hate.” 

Throughout his speech the crowd cheered and applauded, including praises and shouts such as “We love you, Kyle.” In contrast, during the quiet moments of the speech, the muffled chants of the protesters could be heard from outside the Student Center building, where the event was held. 

While giving his account of the Kenosha incident, Rittenhouse said that, while he initially went to Kenosha to provide medical aid, him being a former lifeguard, and to clean off graffiti, the situation quickly escalated. 

“We went there, about five, six o’clock, provided first aid, and there was this guy who threatened to kill me. His name was Joseph Rosenbaum,” Rittenhouse said. “He said ‘If I catch you alone, I’m going to f—ing kill you.’ He caught me alone.” 

Rittenhouse said he was cornered by Rosenbaum, and once Rosenbaum tried to take his gun, he shot Rosenbaum four times. 

“Mr. Rosenbaum was a deadly threat…I was alone, and he was trying to take my gun from me,” Rittenhouse said. “And I exercise my right to defend myself.” 

Danielle Jackson, a protester and KSU student, disagrees with Kyle’s actions in Kenosha, and said that Rittenhouse was asking for a conflict. 

“…The dude drove across two different state lines with an illegal firearm,” Jackson said. “That would be like if I went to a room of a bunch of unarmed people with a gun and then one of them charged me, so I shot them. Technically, yes, it was self-defense, but I went in that room asking for trouble.” 

During the Q&A session, one audience member asked a question regarding this issue. She asked why Rittenhouse thought it was a good idea to go into a group of people who were already riled up, and to rile them up even more by waving his rifle around, “knowing that there’s already chaos going on.” 

Rittenhouse responded by saying, “Well, what about all of BLM that was there with rifles?” He also asked, “What riled people up about [me] providing first aid?” 

A student officer for Turning Point USA from a local university, who wished to remain anonymous, said he believes Rittenhouse’s story is important to share because he said it can be used to help other people who have gone through similar situations.  

“A lot of people don’t understand this: Kyle can use his story, even though it involves killing somebody, to reach people,” the student said. 

The student then referenced a woman in the crowd who spoke up during the Q&A session, asking Kyle for advice about dealing with traumatic events.  

“There was a woman in the crowd who had a similar incident, and this story could help her,” the student said. “It just can help anybody that’s going through the court system to have faith and peace in their situation.” 

Angel Sobolewski, a general studies major on the political science track from Akron University, who attended the event, said that she believes it is important for speakers such as Rittenhouse to be invited to college campuses. 

“College campuses are generally more liberal, and whether these students like it or not, they need to hear another side other than their own,” Sobolewski said. 

However, Jackson said that Turning Point USA bringing a speaker like Rittenhouse increases political division on college campuses. 

“There’s already a big political divide on this campus,” Jackson said. “I feel that bringing Kyle here just makes that even bigger.” 

Rittenhouse also advocated for legalizing campus carry, which he said could help young women protect themselves from sexual assault and kidnappings.  

“Join groups like Turning Point USA, Young Americans for Liberty, and put pressure on your lawmakers,” Rittenhouse said. “Tell them this is not okay, and I have a right to the second amendment, and you saying I can’t own a firearm and bring it into the dormitories or carry my firearm in class is unconstitutional.” 

However, the Turning Point USA student officer from a local university said he was unsure about students carrying firearms on campus.   

“Let’s think logically, if students would be able to have guns, and let’s say a student would disagree with another student, him or her could pull out a gun, and now we have a bigger issue,” the student said.  





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  • R

    Raphael PeoplesApr 21, 2024 at 1:47 pm

    I am a Kent Townie. It’s my beloved home town. With students being killed there, tragically, why the hell would you want him to speak there. It’s so disgusting and repulsive.

  • A

    Angel SobolewskiApr 21, 2024 at 8:24 am

    Beautifully written article. Thanks for sharing, Israel!

  • L

    lolbertApr 20, 2024 at 11:24 pm

    kyle hits women and shoots into crowds
    he is a menace that reasonable people shun and avoid

    • A

      Angel SobolewskiApr 21, 2024 at 7:44 pm

      I take it you didn’t read the article.

    • L

      LisaApr 29, 2024 at 2:56 am

      None of that is true. Where do you get your information? If you had watched all the video of Kyle from that night, you’d know the media is lying to you, deceiving you. Use your brain. Do your own research.

  • D

    Doug SealApr 20, 2024 at 5:35 pm

    How ignorant these protestors are demonstrates the poor education they are receiving at Kent State. Get your money back. Anyone with a cell phone can find out: 1. he was legally carrying the rifle. 2. He was being attacked by 3 different people as shown on video. The survivor at the protest was not shot until he pointed a gun at Rittenhouse. That why a jury found him innocent.