By Angelina Tang
On Thursday, March 9th, protesters took to the streets of UB, speaking out against Michael Knowles’s invitation to deliver a speech at Slee Hall that evening. Knowles is a conservative who has recently stated that “transgenderism” should be “eradicated” from public life, and his speech was entitled “How Radical Feminism Destroys Women (and Everything Else).” Several hundred people gathered outside to peacefully protest the speaker with signs, flags, and chanting.
Knowles had been invited to speak at UB by the university’s Young Americans for Freedom chapter. Leading up to this speech, demands aimed towards administration and UB President Satish Tripathi that the invitation be rescinded were raised, arguing that inviting a transphobic speaker to spread his rhetoric is essentially promoting hate speech. However, on Sunday, March 5th, Tripathi released a statement reaffirming that UB is a place of free speech and safety for minority groups targeted by discrimination, including the transgender community. Knowles was to be permitted to speak as according to this policy of freedom of speech.
Protests lasted for hours outside prior to the speech, as well as during it. Organizers originally planned for protestors to reserve seats inside the speaker’s hall and protest throughout the speech, but only one brief disruption was reported during it. Tripathi released another statement Thursday evening restating what he stated on Sunday, while acknowledging that Knowles’s rhetoric and speech was discomforting to many. Additionally, he stated that UB would continue to promote social justice “long after this visitor has left campus.”