On Oct. 27, Charlie Kirk of Turning Point USA’s long-planned stop in Eugene for his college campus Critical Racism Tour took place at the Emerald Valley Golf Club in Creswell.
With Proud Boys—seeming to act like security—present, Kirk’s 100-plus-minute speaking and Q&A event happened after several locations canceled their hosting. Previous locations had cited safety concerns for their cancellations.
A tumultuous beginning
TPUSA billed their Eugene stop as a University of Oregon event even when the university denied that they were involved. Kirk, who founded TPUSA and is the current CEO, last visited the university—which has its own TPUSA chapter—in 2018.
Following that clarification, the event’s Facebook page listed a new location as the Graduate Eugene Hotel located downtown.
That location didn’t last long and the event’s Eventbrite page was updated to list the location as “TBD” — where it had remained unchanged until the day-of and beyond.
One day prior to the event, on Oct. 26, those who had signed up for either email or text alerts received a message that the location had been updated to Springfield’s Holiday Inn Express on Kruse Way.
By the next morning, the day of the event, antifascists campaigning to get the event shut down reported on Twitter that the event had been canceled for that location. Later, in the afternoon, another message went out to TPUSA subscribers and stated that the event would take place at the Emerald Valley Golf Club in Creswell.
Despite the previous denial of involvement by the University of Oregon, the golf club is the “home course” for both the mens and womens golf teams on campus.
Double Sided Media sent in an application for press passes and did not receive any response prior to the event.
So, DSM went anyway and were barred from even entering the lobby. Not only us but all press that didn’t have an official press pass from the event’s staff.
From outside, in the parking lot, we—journalist Mary Bell, photographer Robert Scherle, and myself—watched as hundreds of people—including fully-uniformed Proud Boys, some from Portland—entered the building. After some time, we walked up to the windows outside the lobby and watched the event’s livestream from a cellphone with KEZI9’s Chris Lindsay who was also barred from entering.
About the Proud Boys’ attendance, Robert said “I was distressed to see their presence intermingled with a lot of youth attending this conference; not to mention entire families filing into this event — parents with their young children or teens.”
We were, however, told by a member of the staff that we could photograph—even inside—as long as we were outside of the lobby.
Almost every-single-person we saw inside was not wearing a mask in defiance of the golf club’s posted signs.
Before long, a cigarette break was needed. DSM journalist Mary Bell and I walked down the stairs out front to the roundabout entrance in front of the golf club’s event center. We were still smoking our cigarettes when all of the Proud Boys we had seen enter the building—and some we didn’t—came out of the ground floor towards us.
Doing so, they split into groups, and began circling us — all while two Lane County Sheriffs deputies stood by their vehicles no more than 15 yards away.
The groups merged into two — one group near the driveway and the other on a corner situated across from us. From there, we heard “I’m pretty sure that one’s name is James” and “I wonder what car they came in.”
Needless to say, it was time to leave. We didn’t come to the event for a confrontation with anyone. As we were barred from going inside, we planned to listen to Charlie Kirk’s speech and did so with the possibility of interviewing some people as they left. Nothing more.
The group of Proud Boys outside intimidated both me and my colleagues as we left.
They “let” me leave, peacefully, and just waved goodbye — obviously making it known that they knew who I was at that point.
KEZI9’s Chris Lindsay was also able to leave without trouble.
My colleague Mary was less fortunate.
Mary was, literally, stopped in her vehicle from leaving the driveway by the group of Proud Boys—right in front of the sheriffs—so that they could take photos of her inside her vehicle.
Recounting the intimidation, Mary said:
“As I was leaving the group of Proud Boys lingered near the exit of the parking lot. One Proud Boy tried to stop me while I was driving in my vehicle by stepping into the driveway with his phone poised to take my picture. I slowly drove around him, avoiding any pedestrians, and other Proud Boys, knowing full well he had taken my picture of me and my vehicle. This is another intimidation tactic and though I could have covered my face or flipped them the bird, I chose instead to just keep driving. I don’t know what they intend to do with that picture but hopefully it’s blurry! In any case, their actions won’t stop me from doing my job as a journalist and reporting on their activities.”Mary Bell
Both Robert and KEZI9’s Chris Lindsay later reported back saying that they had gotten out safely and without incident.
DSM asked the head coaches of UO’s mens and womens golf teams for comment about TPUSA’s use of the facilities they train in despite the University claiming it was uninvolved with the event. We did not hear back before press time.