Free speech takes center stage at ECU ahead of controversial Tomi Lahren event

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — Ahead of controversial figure Tomi Lahren’s visit to East Carolina University Monday, students took the chance to remind each other of the importance of freedom of speech.

There’s been a lot said about Lahren’s visit ever since ECU’s chapter of Turning Point USA announced she would be speaking on campus. Lahren, who’s best known for being extremely opinionated and blunt with her feelings, will discuss the importance of hearing other’s views.

Giovanni Triana, the president of ECU’s Turning Point USA, said they specifically picked Lahren because they felt it was important to have an outspoken conservative voice at ECU.

Triana said while they don’t agree with all of her viewpoints, they do agree she has a right to share them.

“I believe that our country was founded on the ability to be able to express yourself freely,” Triana said.

Ahead of the event, Turning Point USA members rolled out large blow-up balls on campus to allow students to write whatever they wanted on them.

Madison Heffentarber participated in the free speech event. She said while she finds Lahren rude, she agrees people must be open to different views.

“I don’t want her name to be at the university I go to but I realize that there are students who agree with her views, and I’m open to hearing what they have to say,” she said.

The event is only open to ECU students and faculty who were able to get tickets before they sold out.

Keon Roach plans to attend the event just to hear what people have to say.

“I think every viewpoint you can learn something from,” Roach said. “You debate those ideas and you discuss those ideas. I don’t believe people should be shut down because they have unpopular views.”

Some, like Connor Potter, said conservative voices are often drowned out on college campuses, which tend to be more liberal. She said she supported ECU bringing Lahren in.

“I think it’s great that East Carolina is broadening their horizons,” Potter said.

Protests are planned for outside of Mendenhall, where Lahren will be speaking. Protesters have been warned to remain peaceful.

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