The first amendment of the Constitution states that Americans have the right to freedom of speech along with the right to peacefully assemble, and a few dozen students and Johnson City community members exercised those rights Thursday night.
Before former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich spoke on civility in politics as a part of Civility Week, protesters formed outside the Culp Center with signs and chants expressing their disagreement with Gingrich’s visit and what he stands for. Beginning at the end of Gilbreath Drive protesters lined up with signs and began their march to the front of the Culp Center.
While marching past Burgin Dossett and Roger Stout halls, the protesters chanted, “Give Newt the boot,” and “Racist, sexist, anti-gay, Newt Gingrich go away.”
Some of the protesters carried small, gay-pride flags and other pro LGBT-Q rights paraphernalia along with their homemade signs.
One of these signs read, “Bigotry isn’t civil,” in reference to some of the conservative and controversial stances Gingrich has on gay rights, transgender rights and women’s rights.
Student volunteers for the event were shocked at the sight and sound of the protestors approaching the Culp, and some of the volunteers even came outside to take Snapchat videos and photos of the protesters.
When asked why they were there, one protester shouted, “Just what we need, another white, Republican speaking at this university.”
Another protester said that, “It does not make sense for the university to allow Gingrich to come and talk about civility considering his political opinions and decisions as a politician are not civil.”
Chair of Young Americans for Freedom Brandon Johnson came outside before the event expressing that he respects their right to protest and what they have to say. He also invited them inside to hear Gingrich speak.
The group declined.
By the time Gingrich had finished speaking, the protesters had left the front of the Culp Center.