Students react: Nicholas Fuentes leaves campus in uproar

Attendees of Nicholas Fuentes’s speech ask questions and debate during a Q&A portion at the Free Speech Zone at Iowa State University on Wednesday, March 6.

Whitney Mason

Editor’s Note: This story has been edited for clarity’s sake.

African-American students began singing the lyrics to “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” as their way to object to what was being said by white nationalist Nicholas Fuentes — the speaker they came to protest.

The song has been considered as the “Black National Anthem,” adopted by the NAACP in 1919.

Other students continued heckling as Fuentes stood on a half wall in front of the Hub near Central Campus Wednesday night, addressing the crowd that amassed around him.

Fuentes had planned his first college speech to be on immigration, with the message having been originally intended for college Republicans.

“Hey, chill out, your racism is showing!” a student yelled as Fuentes spoke.

“Hey hey, ho ho, the white supremacist has got to go!” another group of students yelled in unison toward the back of the crowd.

An hour before 100 students gathered outside in the brisk cold near the “free speech zone,” about 50 students gathered in Carver Hall Room 205 ready to encounter Fuentes — the original meeting location.

Ariana Voorhis, senior in industrial technology and Iowa State NAACP chapter president, said she was informed through a phone call about the counter protest to Fuentes only minutes before the original start time.

“I don’t think [Fuentes] should be here,” Voorhis said. “I don’t know what he is here to preach about, or what was happening but [someone said] we’re here and we are protesting him in this room.”

As NAACP chapter president, Voorhis said she believed it was important to be in attendance to support the black community.

“I feel like they are begging for an answer and I feel like [Fuentes and his supporters] are looking for us to do something,” Voorhis said. “For us to come together and do something would ultimately impact their voice and what they’re doing.”

Ashton Ayers, junior in political science and political director for College Democrats, said he immediately started reaching out to different organizations after reading about Fuentes’ visit to campus in the Daily article published early Wednesday morning.

Looking around at the different organizations present in the room in Carver, Ayers was amazed.

“This was organized on phenomenally short notice and shows the strong view of Iowa State,” Ayers said. “It shows we don’t tolerate racism, bigotry and hatred against minorities.”

Jonathan Hall, sophomore in civil engineering and the National Panhellenic liaison for the Black Student Alliance, said there was representation from the NAACP, BSA and NPHC to protest.

Hall said a flyer for the protest was given out around noon on Wednesday and members decided to rally.

“My initial reaction was ‘first of all, who is he?’” Hall said. 

Hall said as he read more into Fuentes’ ideologies, he realized he did not support the messaging from Fuentes.

“In NPHC, we work hard to ensure our community we serve, whether it is black or brown or any other kind of marginalized community, are seen as equals in everyone’s eyes,” he said.

As people filled the room, many grew antsy waiting for Fuentes’ arrival.

Alexis Holmes, BSA member, said it was important to have some type of dialogue as those in attendance waited for Fuentes’ arrival.

She and College Republican member Anthony Labruna attempted to start a dialogue for about 10 minutes, before Labruna announced the location of Fuentes on campus — East Hall Room 211.

After an almost hour wait in Carver, student rushed across campus to encounter Fuentes in person.

Before long, Fuentes was moved out of the building by ISU police because he did not have a proper reservation for the room.

Throughout his speech, Fuentes referred to African Americans as “blacks,” which Holmes said reflected strong levels of ignorance.

Preston Burris, senior in communication studies, called Fuentes’ language racist.

Freshman in pre-business Daniel Eisenstein said that he thought Fuentes’ words were inflammatory and that Fuentes was trying to stoke a reaction.

In uproar, students of color shouted, correcting Fuentes’ language.

Holmes said Fuentes’ sarcastic response to the black students demands was a slap-in-the-face to most African American students.

“Why did you say it like that?” an African-American student yelled at Fuentes.

Standing within the growing crowd, Daniel Kriva, freshman in civil engineering and self-proclaimed vice president for the unrecognized Turning Point USA at Iowa State chapter, believed the protesters in attendance just gave Fuentes a platform.

“If all the protesters were in an agreement to not show up, there would only be supporters of this,” Kriva said. “If one reporter took a picture of that and spread it, it would make him not look like a good speaker and it would eventually make his views die out.”

Kriva said that while he did believe Fuentes may have had a bad speech to deliver, he still had a right to speak on it on campus grounds.

Eisenstein said he decided to attend after he was invited by his friends in College Republicans and does not associate with the organization.

Eisenstein said the only reason people knew about Fuentes coming to campus was through the Daily’s article about him coming.

“I wanted to see if [protestors] will let them talk,” Eisenstein said. “Ultimately, they did.”

Burris said Fuentes should not have been able to speak on campus.

However, Eisenstein disagreed with Burris.

“I don’t agree with what he says,” Eisenstein said. He added that though he doesn’t agree with his words, he thinks Fuentes has a right to say what he wants.