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LIVE: Kyle Rittenhouse speaking at WKU, protests in progress

Ian Pitchford
A “Rittenhouse Recap” attendee listens as Kyle Rittenhouse tells his story in the Downing Student Union Nite Class on Wednesday, March 27, 2024.

Editor’s note: This story will be updated with live coverage of the Kyle Rittenhouse speaker event and all protests.

Kyle Rittenhouse, who made national news for killing two men during a Black Lives Matter protest and was later acquitted, is speaking in DSU Nite Class tonight as part of an event sponsored by WKU’s Turning Point USA chapter.

Rittenhouse shot three men — two of whom died —  at a Black Lives Matter protest in Kenosha, Wisconsin, using a semi automatic AR-15 style rifle purchased for him by a friend. He was acquitted in 2021 after he testified that he had acted in self defense.

The Herald has staffers covering the “Rittenhouse Recap” event and the responding protests occurring outside Downing Student Union. This story shares our live coverage and a corresponding timeline of the night. Live updates will also be posted on the Herald’s X account.

4:15 p.m.: Following an all-day sit-in in the lobby of the Wetherby Administration Building, members of the “For the People” student advocacy group moved to South Lawn. The BG Freedom Walkers protest is scheduled to begin in front of Diddle Arena at 6:00 p.m. while the TPUSA event is scheduled to begin in DSU Nite Class at 7:00 p.m.

4:43 p.m.: The “For the People” protest is congregated at Minton Lot, with plans to move to the front of DSU.

4:49 p.m.Photographers from the Herald were informed by DSU employee Damien Duncan that cameras are not allowed into the event at DSU Nite Class.

4:52 p.m.: The “For the People” protest group moved to the front of DSU, standing in front of metal gates blocking the stairs up to the Nite Class exterior.

4:58 p.m.: Tani Washington, a senior International Affairs student and For the People member, said her hopes are that the protest will make their goals heard with the administration.

“I’m hoping that the university will see that we’re essentially not playing around, that the demands that we’re asking for are not something that we’re just like flippantly wanting, but these are demands that we’d like carefully crafted and policies that we carefully analyze,” Washington said.

5:01 p.m.: Alice Gatewood-Waddell, the first Black WKU Homecoming Queen, and Dana Beasley-Brown, Bowling Green City Commissioner, both spoke to the crowd about the importance of students using their voices.

“Use your voices to come together today but not just today. Use it to continue to form organizations like For the People and to move for positive change here at WKU,” Beasley-Brown said.

5:07 p.m.: “Not only does his (Kyle Rittenhouse) presence propagate a hateful mindset, but it also induces and encourages other people like him to believe in the same thing as he does and to propagate it whenever he’s gone,” said Malick Diallo, freshman engineering technology management major and member of For the People. “We have to let everybody in the area that supports him and his associates know that we won’t stand for this, that we’re not going to sit back and let them bring him onto campus and motivate other people to come out and share the same ideas.”

5:14 p.m.: The Herald was informed by Cassidy Smith, southeast regional manager for Turning Point USA, that media and the use of professional cameras are allowed at the event.

“Every university is a little different with how they handle events,” Smith said.

Students and other community members have lined up in front of DSU to attend the event. Seats will be filled on a first come, first serve basis.

Attendees line up to enter the WKU TPUSA event. (Dominic Di Palermo)

5:20 p.m.: As people begin entering the WKU TPUSA event, For the People begins chanting “you can’t stop the revolution.”

5:38 p.m.: WKU TPUSA event organizers have started letting attendees through the gates, however doors into DSU Nite Class do not open until 6:30 p.m., and attendees will be checked by security before entering. Many of those in line are protestors engaging in chants, such as “no justice, no peace.”

5:57 p.m.: The gate to enter the waiting area for the event has been closed, as the number of attendees has reached capacity. An email from TPUSA was sent earlier today to those who registered for the event, stating the venue only has 104 seats.

6:15 p.m.: The Bowling Green Freedom Walkers are gathered outside Diddle Arena for their planned protest, “Black Lives Still And Will Always Matter in BG.” The protest plans to walk over to DSU at 6:30 p.m., according to the Bowling Green Freedom Walkers Facebook page.

“I truly call this place home, so it’s very concerning to me that this type of event has been allowed, particularly because of the concerns about gun laws in the state,” Aspen Hennessey, a 2019 WKU graduate who lives in Bowling Green and is participating in the protest, said. “We’re here to tell WKU and Caboni that this event is unacceptable.”

6:25 p.m.: The Bowling Green Freedom Walkers protest begins to walk towards DSU, led with chants and drumming by Karika Nelson, founder and CEO of the Freedom Walkers.

6:30 p.m.: Attendees who both support and oppose the WKU TPUSA event have expressed varying opinions on the Rittenhouse, the day’s events and the atmosphere at the demonstrations.

“I showed up today because I want us as Black people to take back what’s ours. We are literally funding almost everything and implement our time and energy into thing on this campus but we don’t receive the same energy back from the white population,” said Gabrielle Winston, a sophomore clinical psychology major.

“I just wanted to actually see Kyle rittenhouse and hear what he had to say because he’s been all over the news the past few years and it would just be interesting to see something like that in person,” said Brennan Ross, a junior history and religious studies double major.

6:34 p.m.: Kyle Rittenhouse has arrived at DSU.

Kyle Rittenhouse enters through the loading dock behind DSU. (Dominic Di Palermo)

6:40 p.m.Multiple protest groups, as well as onlookers not participating in the protest, are gathered in front of DSU.

Attendees that have been waiting are now allowed to enter DSU Nite Class. Security is patting down attendees as the enter the room.

6:46 p.m.: Herald reporters and photographers have entered DSU Nite Class.

Herald reporters and photographers have entered DSU Nite Class for the WKU TPUSA event featuring Kyle Rittenhouse. (Molly Dobberstein)

7:08 p.m.: Kyle Rittenhouse has entered DSU Nite Class to begin his presentation. He is scheduled to speak, which will be followed by a question and answer session. The event is scheduled to last one hour.

7:10 p.m.: Rittenhouse opens his speech by telling the audience how he “was set up for an ambush with no choice but to defend myself.”

“I was scared, I was terrified, I was all by myself,” Rittenhouse continued.

Protestors and crowds are booing and yelling outside the event and can be heard from inside.

7:15 p.m.“I shot him, I had no other choice,” Rittenhouse says of the night he shot three men — two of whom died —  at a Black Lives Matter protest in Kenosha, Wisconsin. “It was the scariest situation I’ve ever been in my life.”

7:18 p.m.Protestors outside are continually chanting “no justice, no peace,” “Kyle is a killer” and booing directly outside of DSU Nite Class.

“I want to tell you that your university does not give a fuck about you,” Rittenhouse tells the audience in reference to open carry on campus. He continues that every time he is on campus in Texas, he carries his gun.

Protestors inside the event are silent, waiting for the question and answer session.

7:21 p.m.: Rittenhouse has finished his prepared remarks and is beginning the question and answer session.

7:28 p.m.: Protestors are asking Rittenhouse questions, and Rittenhouse is dismissing these individuals, cutting them off before they can finish their questions.

7:33 p.m.: “I know what I’m doing is right,” Rittenhouse tells the audience, in reference to the protests against him.

7:37 p.m.: Rittenhouse tells the audience that one positive thing that came out of his situation has been that he has got to meet people and visit campuses.

7:38 p.m.: Rittenhouse has concluded the question and answer session and has left the room. Protestors began chanting as he left the room.

7:40 p.m.: All those lingering in DSU Nite Class after the event’s conclusion have been asked to leave. Protestors are still present outside DSU.

7:44 p.m.: Rittenhouse has left WKU.

Debra Murray

7:45 p.m.: Protestors remained pressed up against the barricades outside DSU, chanting “lock his ass up.”

Protestors pressed up against the barricades outside of DSU. (Molly Dobberstein)

7:51 p.m.: Some protest groups left the DSU area and walked down towards Guthrie Bell tower.

The Bowling Green Freedom Walkers remain congregated in front of DSU.

7:55 p.m.: The group of protestors that moved towards South Lawn has congregated near the loading dock area in the back of DSU. Among the chants are expressions of anger at the WKU Student Government Association for not doing anything to prevent the event from taking place.

According to a crowd estimate received by the Herald from a WKU PD Officer Scott Harmon, there was approximately 700 people who attended the protests.

7:58 p.m.: Protests have stopped outside DSU. WKU PD and BGPD officers remain on the DSU steps, along with some remaining attendees.

8:00 p.m.: Protest groups have remained on South Lawn, encouraging students to “come heal with us” following the event.

A protest group’s sign encouraging people to “come heal with us” following the event. (Molly Dobberstein)

8:13 p.m.: Protests have ended and a gathering of students discussing the night’s events. They have reflected on their own experiences throughout the afternoon and evening, and once again called out various student organizations and the university administration.

This concludes the Herald’s live coverage. Watch for stories, photos and videos to come later tonight.

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