Students’ political ideologies clash at Turning Point USA ‘Take A Stand’ demonstration

Richard Gibson, a sophomore psychology major, speaks to members of Turning Point USA on Risman Plaza on Monday, Oct. 2, 2017. Gibson is president of student organization World Of Kolored Empowerment or W.O.K.E.

Tierra Thomas

Tension was in the air as two groups faced one another under the American flag, one side standing and the other kneeling.

In response to students taking a knee last week, the nonpartisan, small government student organization Turning Point USA‘s Kent State chapter held a “TakeAStand” demonstration Monday at Risman Plaza.

“Instead of going and ruining their free speech and ruining what they were doing, we decided to hold our own event celebrating America,” said Kaitlin Bennett, a senior zoology major and president of Turning Point USA’s Kent State chapter.

Similar to the “Take a Knee” event, the group stood for two hours beside the flag, heads held high as the national anthem blared from the radio behind them. 

“We are here to show people that there is an opposite side on this campus,” Bennett said.

Leandra Westbrook, junior political science major and vice president of the group, finds the kneeling movement disrespectful.

“It’s a slap in the face to (the veterans),” Westbrook said. “To see their country disrespect them like this … it’s horrible. It discredits all the sacrifices they made for our country.”

On the opposite side of them, however, the students kneeling were trying to persuade the other group that kneeling for the anthem was not out of disrespect to the song or America.

When Suleika Carlo-Ramos, sophomore biology major and participant in the “Take a Knee” demonstration, found out about Turning Point USA having the event, she was infuriated.

“As far as I understand, I’ve never heard anyone who has taken a knee say that they’re against the military, and if they are, I don’t condone that,” Carlo-Ramos said.

Richard Gibson, the president of World of Kolored Empowerment, took a vocal stance on why he and the rest of the group were kneeling.

“We take a knee because we feel like we are not being represented,” Gibson said.

The controversy began in 2016 when Colin Kaepernick, a former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, protested police brutality and racial inequality by kneeling during the national anthem at a football game.

After President Donald Trump’s comments stating those who choose to kneel should be fired, like members of the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens, Seattle Seahawks, Dallas Cowboys and others, many have come forward in support of Kaepernick and participants in the movement.

There were a couple of times where the tension got heated and both groups traded insults, but there were moments where one group member from either side walked over to the other and had conversations.

“They have absolutely every right to (take a knee) and they should,” Bennett said. “However, they’re not getting their point across if they think that it has nothing to do with disrespecting the flag, the country or service members and veterans.”

Bennett said the event was successful.

“We got a lot of people talking. And the issues the other side has will be talked about, as well.”

Tierra Thomas is the African-American student life reporter. Contact her at [email protected].