Virtual anti-Antifa event hosted by College Republicans moved online due to safety, logistical issues

The club hosted conservative journalist Andy Ngo and libertarian Gabriel Nadales for a discussion titled “Extremism in America.”

by Jacob Strier and Arizbeth Rojas | 1/25/22 5:10am

1-24-22-andyngo-hannahli
by Hannah Li / The Dartmouth Staff

On Jan. 20, the Dartmouth College Republicans invited conservative journalist Andy Ngo and former Antifa member-turned libertarian activist Gabriel Nadales to speak at the College. The event was first slated to be held in person in Filene Auditorium in Moore Hall before it was moved to Zoom due to “safety issues,” according to College spokesperson Diana Lawrence. 

Lawrence wrote in an emailed statement Monday evening that due to “concerning information” from the Hanover police shared late Thursday afternoon and “similar concerns” expressed by College Republican leadership, the College requested that the event be moved online. Lawrence added that the College Republicans experienced “challenges” in staffing the event and communicating to the public effectively, including disseminating the College’s visitor policy and the prohibition on bags in the building. 

The virtual event had 177 unique viewers, Lawrence wrote, with a peak of 94 viewers at one time. 

On Jan. 19, an Instagram account, the Dartmouth Anarchists, announced plans for a protest beginning at 6 p.m. on Jan. 20, one hour before the “Extremism in America” event was set to take place. However, no protesters were gathered at Filene Auditorium at the time of the discussion, and Lawrence wrote that the College has “no evidence that the Dartmouth Anarchists Instagram account that was created last week has any relationship to Dartmouth.” 

Harrison Fell ’25 and Akhand Dugar ’25 attended the event. Although Fell said he is not a “fan” of Ngo’s work, he said that he still wanted to attend the event because he thought it would be “entertaining.” Dugar said he was not in attendance as a “fan,” but as an observer. 

“I was interested to see what happened with members of Antifa exercising their right to protest,” Dugar said. 

Department of Safety and Security officers at the venue confirmed that the in-person event had been moved online, but did not explain why, referring comment to Safety and Security director Keysi Montas, who declined to comment. 

According to a tweet after the event from Ngo, there were “bomb-sniffing dogs brought in.” Lawrence wrote in her statement there were “no bomb threats,” but that the Hanover and state police conducted a routine sweep of the venue prior to the speakers’ arrival. She did not clarify the presence of “dogs” at the event. 

“This is standard procedure and is not initiated because of specific information,” she wrote.

The last Dartmouth College Republicans event, which hosted Republican Rep. Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina and was held in person in October, also received backlash from several student organizations on campus that joined together for a protest. 

The event opened with remarks by College Republicans vice president Chloe Ezzo ’22, who explained the shift in programming and introduced Ngo and Nadales.

“Now, more than ever, it is necessary to protect First Amendment rights, which are the cornerstone of a free and open society,” she said. “ I do not want to live in Antifa America — I do not want to live in a society where journalists are persecuted for the topics they choose to cover.” 

Ezzo said that Ngo is “best known” for his reporting on Antifa and covering their “illegal activities,” calling him one of the “few courageous journalists” on the topic. She declined to comment for this story.

According to the Anti-Defamation League, Antifa is a decentralized movement composed of loose collections of groups, networks and individuals whose professed purpose is to “vigorously oppose fascism,” and often appear at far-right events. 

Ngo, whose livestream indicated that he was in Filene during the event, began his remarks with an overview of left-wing extremism and the role of Kathy Boudin in a 1981 bank robbery case. He said that after becoming involved with Weather Underground, a leftist militant group, Boudin had served as a decoy and getaway driver in the robbery, which resulted in the death of two police officers and a security guard. 

Incidents of alleged Antifa violence were a main focus of Ngo’s comments. He said that “Antifa are able to operate in the mainstream.” 

“Antifa don’t want you to see their violence, which is why they beat journalists like myself for reporting to the public,” he said. 

Ngo also explained that Antifa became “mainstream” after Trump was elected.

“They became mainstream after Trump was elected because they had a mandate from the mainstream left to join in the hashtag resistance,” he said. “Their goal is to agitate leftist uprisings against the state — they want to bring about a revolution.” Ngo added that he rejects political violence “in all forms.” 

Nadales, also in Filene, then switched places with Ngo to begin his remarks about his past association with Antifa. He said that while protesting a neo-nazi event in Claremont, California, he was approached by an Antifa member, and soon joined himself. Today, he said his political beliefs differ from what they once were. 

“For over a year and a half, I was ready to participate in direct action,” Nadales said, explaining that such action might look like protesting outside of a CEO’s home. 

Nadales said that the best way to understand Antifa is to “see it as a movement, not as an organization.” He added that within Antifa there are “several radical left-wing groups.” 

Over time, Nadales said that he became interested in “free-market ideals.” 

“I was interested in intellectuals like Milton Friedman,” he said. “I didn’t like them, but I found them interesting. I wanted to talk about the ideas with my friends. Who were my friends? Other members of the antifascist movement.”

Nadales said his Antifa friends’ distaste for his curiosity made him realize that they were not people he wanted to “hang out with.” He now believes Antifa is “a tumor on society.” 

Ngo and College Republicans president Griffin Mackey ’21 did not respond to The Dartmouth’s requests for comment. 

Advertise your student group in The Dartmouth for free!