86th LegislatureEducationIssuesLocal NewsState HouseStudent Event Disrupted at UT as Campus Free Speech Tensions Hit House Floor

Smoke bomb disrupts speaker event at UT on the same day tensions about a free speech bill developed on the Texas House floor.
April 30, 2019
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A student-hosted event at the University of Texas went awry Monday night as a speech featuring a prominent pro-life figure was disrupted by a smoke bomb and resulted in a full evacuation of the building.

The Young Conservatives of Texas (YCT) chapter at the University of Texas hosted Ryan Bomberger, the co-founder & Chief Creative Officer of The Radiance Foundation.

Bomberger was conceived in rape, but his biological mother gave him up for adoption. He won an Emmy® Award before co-founding the Radiance Foundation with his wife Bethany.

YCT had previously hosted Mr. Bomberger in the fall.

“The event was with the exact same name, and we did the exact same type of promoting,” said Lilian Bonin, 20, from Buda, TX and the current YCT chapter president.

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The event was titled “Should Have Been Aborted,” a reference to Mr. Bomberger’s personal story.

Not long after the event started, a smoke bomb was set off outside the room with Mr. Bomberger and the students who came to hear him. The following tweet was released shortly after by the campus police department:

“UTPD responding to Gearing Hall (GEA) where smoke device used to interrupt student event. Building evacuated. No injuries. Criminal investigation underway.”

In regards to the perpetrator who placed the smoke device inside the hall, Ms. Bonin said, “I’m sure our guest speaker would have loved to talk to them…why did they do that and run away if they are so confident in their beliefs?”

The Texan contacted Mr. Bomberger for comment to which he provided the following statement:

“So-called ‘social justice warriors’ are all wrapped up in accusing others of ‘hate speech’ yet seem to do nothing but actually hate speech with which they disagree. On campuses across the country, these activists can’t handle that others are able to exercise their First Amendment rights. As someone conceived in rape, adopted and loved, and now an adoptive father, I have a rather unique perspective on abortion. Students wanted to hear it.”

Hours before the event, members of the Texas House of Representatives were debating HB 2100, a bill authored by Rep. Briscoe Cain (R-Deer Park) that is aimed at protecting free speech on college campuses. A key component of the legislative debate has focused on the implementation of a cause of action against universities who fail to protect free speech or actively engage in silencing it.

Critics of the bill argue that this approach goes too far and interferes with a university’s sovereignty.

An exchange between two members became especially heated yesterday while the bill was being heard on the House floor.

The video below shows Rep. Terry Canales (D-Edinburg) defending his amendment against Rep. Rafael Anchia (D-Dallas). The amendment in question waived sovereign immunity against universities when pertaining to violations of free speech.

The amendment was adopted as part of the bill.

HB 2100 passed 85- 58 this morning in the Texas House of Representatives. Out of the 85 votes, 78 came from Republicans and seven from Democrats.

Rep. Cain took the opportunity to address the incident at the University of Texas as evidence of his legislation’s relevance.

“A student event was disrupted last night at UT, which is even more reason why this bill is important.”

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Tony Guajardo

Tony Guajardo

Tony Guajardo is a reporter for The Texan. He has been involved in politics since the fall of 2012 when he served as an intern for the now-retired U.S. Congressman Charlie Gonzalez (D-San Antonio). He is a native of Fort Worth, Texas and graduated from Texas A&M University.