OPINION By Silas Lee
Summary: Tuesday, May 17, students at Lee’s Summit West shut down the organization of a group called Turning Point, which has links to white supremacists, participants in the January 6th insurrection, and has spread bigoted messages.
Last week, students at West began noticing fliers for a new club called “Turning Point” trying to start. It took the student body mere hours before deciding that it was time to shut the group down.
Despite being relatively unknown to anyone that isn’t far-right, it took no time before education on Turning Point began to spread. The Lee’s Summit West club (LSW Turning Point / LSWTPUSA) tried to claim that they’re just a “conservative safe space” and that they wanted to spread Capitalist ideas. The national organization has tried to say the same, but that isn’t the truth. The national organization is filled to the brim with far-right, racist, homophobic, and elitist individuals.
The group’s leader, Charlie Kirk, embraces and endorses “Great Replacement Theory” which was a severe contributor to the Buffalo mass shooting. That isn’t even where the racism ends.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has released articles and statements where genuine Conservative groups have claimed that Turning Point chapters have members that are “racists and Nazi-sympathizers”. The SPLC has also published articles where members of school chapters for the far-right, Crypto-Fascist group the Proud Boys had been brought into Turning Point.
Turning Point has also been listed by the Anti-Defamation League as having leaders and members who have made several racist or hateful remarks and have been linked to extremism.
Then there is the Crystal Clanton incident. As the National Field Organizer, and Charlie Kirk’s proclaimed “greatest hire” that the organization made, sent out texts stating “i hate black people. Like fuck them all . . . I hate blacks. End of story.” Not only was the racist praised as Turning Point’s best hire, Kirk also stated in his book, Time for a Turning Point, that “Turning Point needs more Crystals; so does America”. Then, after her texts were revealed, Turning Point replaced Crystal with a woman who had publicly called Black people racial slurs.
It’s not merely racism that goes on at Turning Point USA, it’s homophobia and transphobia too.
Bigoted terms such as “transgenderism” fly around on Turning Point’s own articles. Stephen Davis of Turning Point has released articles under Turning Points “LGBTQ” feed reading The Moral Decline Of America and blaming the LGBTQ community for the decline in morality.
The founder of a Turning Point chapter in Johnston, Iowa, stated on his own podcast that it is “not okay” for people to transition. He mentioned this on his own podcast, where he named the episode “Transgender people are a problem”.
Not only are they a hate group, but if you don’t comply with their views then you are put on a “school board watchlist”, a “professor watchlist”, or even labeled as “one of the most radical districts” in the United States. This can be done for anything that doesn’t comply with their values.
Taking Portland Public Schools as an example highlights just how ridiculous these lists are. Portland Public Schools is listed as “one of the most radical districts in America”. According to Turning Point USA, PPS is radical because it gives women tampons in bathrooms, had anti-racist training for teachers, and having Covid-19 protocols.
TPUSA also claims that the anti-racist training has elements of “Critical Race Theory” in it, and links the heavily bias, right wing source Fox News as their reference. However, the Fox article contains no links to the documents they mention and their interviewed sources are other right-wing groups that are not affiliated with Portland Public Schools.
If caring for people is radical, and spreading propaganda isn’t, then what is the point in their watchlists? If providing women basic needs is a radical idea, but spreading the idea that white people are being “replaced” isn’t, then what is the point in their watchlists? Fear.
Turning Point is one of the biggest self-proclaimed Conservative groups in the United States, they’re aware of this. Donald Trump even spoke at a Turning Point event. They know they’re massive. They use their popularity to try to make districts fold to their values and their own propaganda, otherwise they get put on these lists which go out to thousands of districts.
When a district doesn’t comply with Turning Point and their extremist views, they’re listed as radical. They claim their organization is to “enlighten” students by spreading their ideology, often through their own propaganda. These are tactics used by Fascist groups. The only difference is Turning Point tries to hide their Fascist beliefs and tactics. The people that call themselves “mega-MAGA” (even believing their above other Trump supporters) want to spread hatred, lies, and authoritarianism.
This is all just the beginning of their issues, but we need to discuss what happened at West on Tuesday. I was in the library during the counterprotest for their meeting, and I was outside chanting when we were all removed from the room.
Lee’s Summit West is not the school for this kind of hatred. There are so many of us that are Gay, Queer, Lesbian, Trans, Black, or parts of other groups that Turning Point and their members target. We all recognized this, and we stood up for one another.
Turning Point began posting fliers roughly a week before their meeting, which was held the day before we seniors left and on International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia. This didn’t seem like a coincidence to many of us. It seemed very planned by them.
We students didn’t let this stand. We saw their fliers, took a lot of them down, and a lot of us went to administration. I didn’t go to admin, I was one of the many who wanted to confront the group personally.
We eventually found out that the proposed club had a couple sponsors, but they stopped their involvement the day before the meeting. Turning Point still claimed they were a club, however, despite even the administration saying to us that they were not a club.
A few days before their meeting, a friend of mine (who— along with other people— I will choose to keep nameless for his safety) began setting up a petition drive. He has since been interviewed for the KC Defender and other stations, recognized for his actions that tried to see a peaceful end to the Turning Point organization’s invasion.
Our goal here was not to stop the people of this club from starting something, it was to make sure there was no Turning Point affiliation. The group has constantly claimed that they just want to talk about Conservative politics and promote Capitalism, but their parent organization uses hate speech and spreads lies. Students at the protest even asked why they didn’t just start an economics club or a politics club, to which the Turning Point members had no response.
This caused frustration in us. It showed us that their club wasn’t actually about politics or economics. It seemed like they either didn’t want students of other values joining their club, or it wasn’t actually about being a Conservative or “free market economics”.
They also made themselves out to be hypocrites. During their meeting they claimed they “weren’t a politics club”, but that they were a Conservative club. They also said the meeting was open to the public, but told an unnamed student to leave if they didn’t agree with them.
Throughout their meeting, I was one of the primary voices against them. I asked them satirical questions such as “How do I become a racist like Kirk?”, “I’m queer, but can I be homophobic like Turning Point?”, and similar questions. The satirical takes got laughs and applause from other protesters, and made the Turning Point organizers angry. My goal was to end this meeting and ensure that Lee’s Summit West students didn’t have to feel the hatred that comes with Turning Point.
Turning Point kept making hypocritical and backwards remarks, at one point boldly lying saying they aren’t affiliated with the national organization. Then they back tracked and said they were, but don’t want us to judge them based on the national organizations actions. A student asked them “If you aren’t like them, then why did you join them?” which got us all more rallied against the group.
At this point, administration stepped in and said that if the meeting couldn’t be kept civil then it would be shut down, and another protester told the administrator to shut it down. A student at the very back of the room held up her hand and asked the administrator “We’re here because you guys are letting this happen. Why would you let [Turning Point] form?” and the administrator responded by telling the protesters that Turning Point was not a club, that administrators couldn’t do much, and that Turning Point was merely a group.
This set off our last bit of noise as we all turned to Turning Point who kept claiming they were a club, and administration began sending us out. As we were all leaving, a student came through the far side door to the room and flipped a glass table that shattered. The student was then taken by the administrator, and is likely not to graduate.
Now, for added context, the student was in the room at the very beginning of the meeting, but left after a Turning Point member began pushing him. The student, reportedly autistic and not fully able to control his temper, immediately tore down Turning Point’s propaganda fliers that read statements like “Capitalism Will Save You From Poverty” and a big poster that said “Lee’s Summit West Turning Point”. The Turning Point kid immediately started pushing him, and he left.
After he flipped the table, we all went outside to see the ocean of students that were in the school courtyard protesting and signing a petition to stop Turning Point from forming in our school.
As we walked down to the courtyard, one large group of people around 15-25 people were huddled together and dancing, around 60 more stood by the tables, and oceans of people flooded the balconies and watched us all. We began chanting “We have a voice!” and “BLM”, people ran with pride flags, and petitions kept getting passed around. Students came with paint on their bodies, showing support for groups that Turning Point targets, and coming together as one to stand up for Lee’s Summit West students.
In the aftermath of all this, Turning Point has begun taking out of context and edited videos to portray themselves as the heroes. Their members have also posted pictures of myself, some of my friends, and some underage people without any consent in an attempt to target us. They’re claiming it was “insane Leftists” that shut the meeting down, and that the table smashing was part of it. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
None of the protesters care about their politics, what we care about is human rights and safety. What we care about is making sure racism, bigotry, propaganda, and conspiracy theories don’t threaten our school. Turning Point members have claimed that white people are being “replaced”, the same theory that partly caused the Buffalo mass shooting.
Turning Point is one of the most hateful organizations in the country. They are “Crypto-Fascist”, which means they attempt to mask their Fascism, but they want schools to comply with their far-right ideals through intimidation and propaganda.
I will emphasize this: only one student, of the entire school, acted with violence. That’s under 1% of us who protested. Far right media is already beginning a propaganda surge, claiming it was all planned and that it was extremely violent. The truth is the only planned part was students signing a petition. The turnout wasn’t, nor was the protest in the library. That was just the natural instinct of us students. We all had a group threatening our ways of life, and we stood up to them. That is community at its very best.