Donald Trump Jr.'s speaking event at UF sparks protests

By Maggie Lorenz - Multi-media journalist, Brittany Muller - Reporter

GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Donald Trump Jr. and his girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, a senior advisor on his father’s re-election campaign spoke Thursday evening at the University of Florida.

Before Trump Jr. addressed a sold out crowd, students gathered throughout the day outside University Auditorium.

Trump Jr. and Guilfoyle will be paid $50,000, which comes out of student activity and service fees. The fees are mandatory for students attending class on campus. A group of demonstrators, unhappy about how the speech is being funded, said the money should go toward underfunded student groups.

The ACCENT Speakers Bureau organized Thursday's event. While the event featured President Donald Trump's son and a member of his campaign, the university said the speech does not violate its rules against using student fees to pay for a political event.

The university issued a statement reading in part:

"The university has committed itself to ensuring that a wide variety of viewpoints are heard on campus as well as to protecting the First Amendment rights of all those in attendance.”

Some student groups, including "Chomp Trump" and "No Nazis at UF" had been calling for the event to be canceled. Guilfoyle and Trump Jr. were invited by the Accent Speakers Bureau, which has brought hundreds of speakers to campus since the 1970s. 

Protest organizer Jovanna Liuzzo said mandatory student fees shouldn't pay for what she called a reelection campaign.

"We're obviously not okay with this hateful rhetoric being displayed on our campus, so we're here to tell them that's not okay. It's not okay that our student fees are being used to for this as well," Liuzzo said.

She sent a formal letter to the school and Accent Speakers Bureau saying the $50,000 should be reallocated to student organizations. 

Sophomore Bailey Lynch said he believes the money was put to good use.

"It's good to have opposing views come in and just get an insight on what other people think and what they believe in," Lynch said.

After the event, the university issued another statement:

"At a time when we face challenges with civil discourse, students at the University of Florida exemplified civility and tolerance this evening. Despite intense disagreement among students over the invited speaker, the event proceeded without disruption. Groups representing all viewpoints had their say outside the venue without incident, while inside the venue audience members showed both their support and their opposition without disruption. We commend that. Their commitment to expressing their passionately held beliefs, while honoring the right of others to do the same without fear or interference, reflects the highest ideals of free speech and of our university."

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