A crowd of about 250 people gathered outside Memorial Union Monday night to protest the Matt Walsh event hosted at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, demonstrating support for transgender rights.
The protest was organized by Madison Socialist Alternative and Madison Abortion and Reproductive Rights Coalition for Healthcare (MARRCH). Protestors began by walking near the steps of Memorial Union and shouting “sexist, racist, anti-gay, Christian fascist go away” and “transphobia has got to go.”
“We think that we need a mass movement, really, it should be a mass movement of millions, of people pushing [fascist transphobes] back into their holes,” said Luke Eckenrod, Madison Socialist Alternative organizer. “A protest is a good first step to organizing people who do not support transphobia.”
Earlier Monday, Memorial Union and Alumni Park were the site of spray-painted messages against Walsh. The graffiti was mostly cleared by the time of the protest.
Counter-protesters started organizing first on the same side of Langdon Street as the main protest group and eventually moved across the street onto Library Mall.
University of Wisconsin Police Department (UWPD) officers directed traffic as protesters started crossing the intersection. Traffic between Lake Street and Park Street was temporarily blocked by police cars.
Protesters and counter-protesters later merged into a group near the stairs of the Wisconsin Historical Society, where counter-protesters used a megaphone to describe their religious views about gender.
“My kids wanted to come out here to preach the Gospel and talk about some of these relevant issues,” said Jason Storms, who identified himself as a Christian pastor who traveled from Milwaukee to counter the demonstrations with two of his children, ages 16 and 18, who wanted to come see Walsh speak.
“Matt Walsh came here to hold an event on campus, so they’re coming out to agitate. So they can’t accuse us of being the agitators when they’re out here to agitate,” added Storms.
A small group of about 10 counter-protesters was led away from the center of the protest and across Library Mall by UWPD officers.
Storms told The Daily Cardinal they were asked to leave the center of the protests because UWPD could “not manage public safety.”
Storms is the director of Operation Save America, a fundamentalist Christian conservative organization, and also attended the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
Protestors continued speaking in front of Memorial Union until the event with Walsh started at 6:30 p.m. in the Great Hall.
“I think [this protest] has been a really strong showing to the university that it is absolutely unacceptable to give a platform to a fascist bigot [with] transphobic hateful speech,” said Victoria Gutierrez, an organizer with MARRCH. “The fact that there are this many people coming out is awesome.”
Editor's note: This story was updated on October 25 at 5:17 p.m. to include additional information on Jason Storms.
Hope Karnopp is the news manager and dabbles in music reviews at The Daily Cardinal. She previously hosted the Cardinal Call for WORT-FM and edited state news.
Ian Wilder is a current features writer and former state politics reporter for The Daily Cardinal. Follow him on Twitter at @IanWWilder.
Noe Goldhaber is a staff writer for the Daily Cardinal specializing in campus and state news reporting.