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By Tommy Gagliano

On November 14th, 2019, a crowd of an estimated size of 200 or more gathered on the “Spine” (a long central walkway in the middle of campus) at Binghamton University. Some were screaming and hurling insults, others were stealing or damaging property, and some were merely there to observe the chaos, or to record it on their phones. How did this happen? What led to this reaction, and the formation of such a large and hostile gathering of people? We reached out to three event organizers and a number of other witnesses who were present to find out.

At around 11 AM on November 14th, College Republicans and the Binghamton University chapter of Turning Point USA set up tables on the Spine. According to College Republicans president John Restuccia, the two organizations planned to table next to each other, but were promoting two separate things. “The purpose of [College Republicans] tabling was to advertise our event on Monday, November 18th of the world famous Economist Arthur Laffer coming to campus,” Restuccia explained. Lacey Kestecher, president of BU’s Turning Point chapter, said that TPUSA was tabling to “get more support for the newly-opened TPUSA chapter.” The College Republicans promoted the Art Laffer event, titled “Trump, Tariffs, Trade Wars,” by handing out free hot chocolate and flyers. Turning Point had a table set up with a number of posters sent to them by the national Turning Point USA organization, and were giving out free posters and buttons while “engaging in an active debate with disagreeing students,” according to Turning Point Vice President Jon Lizak. Lizak is also the secretary of College Republicans, and was helping both organizations.

At first, the reception by passing students was mostly positive. Restuccia said that passerby were initially “very kind,” and “wanted free hot chocolate.” However, things began to go downhill when a group of people approached the conservative students and began yelling at them. Lizak explained that “things began to escalate after our conversation about Israel, in which one of the protesting students said ‘The rockets are hitting Israel every day, really? Good for them. Let’s keep hitting Israel.’” As more students joined in, the representatives from College Republicans and Turning Point USA became greatly outnumbered. Protestors shouted at them, cursed at them, and tried to intimidate them. They also attempted to shut down the tabling event by force. According to Jon Lizak, the protestors “stripped [their] tables, folded [the tables] aggressively by kicking them shut, and discarded them to the side” while yelling “pack it up.” Some footage of this harassment recorded by Lacey Kestecher can be seen on the Young America’s Foundation YouTube channel.

The College Republicans and Turning Point USA organizers responded to the chaos by remaining calm, and keeping quiet. Lacey used her phone to record what was going on, while Lizak simply stood there and smiled. Restuccia had left the event to go to class, and was not present at the time that the large crowd gathered. “We didn’t talk back or argue with them because we didn’t want to escalate an already-volatile situation,” Lizak said. A few other students did jump in to defend the College Republicans and Turning Point representatives, however.

Tablers were surprised that the crowd got as big as it did, as quickly as it did. This was not a naturally occurring gathering, however. Messages were sent to at least two massive group chats, encouraging students to go to the Spine and harass the conservative students. The images below show messages that were sent to a Hinman community group chat that consists of over 400 Hinman residents, and group chat for students of color called “The Culture” that has over 1500 members.

University police eventually arrived at the scene, to ensure that violence did not ensue. “[The police] worked as mediators and truly helped to ensure that everyone was safe,” Kestecher said. The protestors, however, were not very happy that UPD was there. They began to yell at the police, demanding to know “who are you protecting?” and chanting “no justice, no peace, no racist police.” UPD advised the College Republicans and Turning Point representatives that it was probably a good idea to leave before the situation got even more out of hand, and they helped escort the students away from the Spine.

In the aftermath, a narrative has been spread that places the blame not on the protestors that verbally harassed and destroyed the property of other students, but on the representatives from College Republicans and Turning Point USA. Pipe Dream, BU’s mainstream newspaper, released an article the following day, titled “Student activists protest tabling event promoting gun rights, criticize UPD for response.” They claim that College Republicans and Turning Point USA “tabled in support of gun rights,” listing this as the sole purpose of the tabling. Although the Turning Point table did contain two posters about guns, these were just a few of the items they used to advertise their organization. “The purpose of the TPUSA table was to promote Turning Point as an organization; it was NOT a ‘pro-gun rally,’” Jon Lizak explained. College Republicans did not have any gun-related imagery at their table at all. The Pipe Dream article fails to mention the purpose of tabling for either club. Instead they focus on two specific posters (out of many more) that were on one of the two tables, and uses them to claim that the purpose of the tabling event was to “support gun rights.”

Pipe Dream also claims that tabling took place hours after a school shooting in Santa Clarita, California. The tabling actually began at 11 AM eastern time, approximately a half hour after the shooting in California, which occurred at around 7:30 AM pacific time (10:30 eastern). The club presidents, John Restuccia and Lacey Kestecher, both said they were unaware of the shooting that had taken place while they were getting ready to start tabling.

A big deal is also made about the two clubs not getting SA permission to table beforehand. It is true that neither organization went through the proper SA channels before setting up their tables on the Spine. Restuccia said the reason for this is that “the land is on a public university, and [is] public property.” Kestecher supported this statement. “Since it’s public property, it’s in our right to table,” she said. From a legal perspective, Restuccia and Kestecher are correct. While it is a Student Association rule that clubs need to get permission before tabling, what College Republicans and Turning Point USA did was perfectly legal. Additionally, Turning Point USA is not an SA-chartered organization, and therefore has no obligation to abide by SA policies.

Binghamton University College Democrats released a statement based on the misinformation spread in the Pipe Dream article. They repeat the false narrative that College Republicans and TPUSA were “advocating for gun rights only three hours after a school shooting in Santa Clarita,” and call on the Student Association to “Immediately suspend Binghamton University’s College Republicans for putting the lives of students in danger” and “Enforce a ban on Turning Point USA to prevent them from tabling in the future.” They also go on to condemn UPD for protecting students.

Official statements have not yet been made by Binghamton University President Harvery Stenger or by the Student Association. How they will respond as pressures increase on them from both sides remains to be seen. You may wonder – how are the students holding up? “I’ve had a good amount of people recognize me since,” Jon Lizak explains. Lizak has become the face of the confrontation, thanks to a photo of him next to a President Trump cardboard cutout that was published by Pipe Dream, and a different photo of him that was spread around Twitter in which the author of the tweet encouraged people to harass him whenever they see him. “None of the negative comments bother me because the positive response I’ve received since then has been absolutely amazing. I know the average, sane American is on my side in this fight for free speech, and that is satisfying to me.”

Eyewitness Isaac will share his account of the situation in his piece “Chaos on the Spine,” which will be released with the next issue of Binghamton Review on November 20th.

8 Replies to “Leftist Mob Harasses Conservative Students at BU”

  1. Hopefully the university’s response will be high profile and help the public understand how this behavior is in line with their noble stated principles.
    All are welcome???
    If you love to spark discussions, explore ideas and push boundaries, Binghamton just might be the place for you.
    We are an academically selective community that shares ideas across departments, disciplines and borders. We encourage faculty, students and staff to ask unexpected questions, foster open dialog and develop innovative solutions to important problems.

  2. Much of it was caught on video. If the violent actors are not expelled from the university, then the university is just blowing smoke for PR. BU is no longer a marketplace of ideas. It’s been taken over by Victim Studies departments, with their requisite communists.

  3. BU graduate here. The best response here and in the future is for organizations like TPUSA to lawyer up and have all conservative events videoed from multiple angles. Start filing lawsuit after lawsuit after lawsuit not just against the University but against the individual thugs who tip over tables and issue threats. Be relentless in the battle for free speech. Binghamton does not want to become another joke like Oberlin. I take that back; they already are.

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