Hundreds protest, attend lecture of conservative commentator Matt Walsh at UI

Protestors took to the streets in and around Iowa Memorial Union on Wednesday to protest Walsh and his anti-trans platform during his lecture on Wednesday


Ayrton Breckenridge

Protesters shout while blocking traffic on North Madison Street after a lecture organized by the University of Iowa Chapter of the Young Americans for Freedom for anti-trans conservative commentator Matt Walsh’s “What Is a Woman?” documentary at the Iowa Memorial Union on Wednesday, April 19, 2023. Prior to the lecture, progressive students called for the lecture to be suspended because of Walsh’s transphobic remarks.

Liam Halawith and Emily Delgado

Over 200 Iowa City community members protested conservative commentator Matt Walsh during his visit to the University of Iowa campus inside and outside the Iowa Memorial Union on Wednesday. 

Walsh screened his documentary, “What is a Woman?,” to over 150 people in the Iowa Theatre inside the IMU. The documentary highlighted conservative commentary around transgender identities. 

Following the screening, the self-described “theocratic fascist” spoke to a crowd of over 750 people in the IMU Main Lounge. Although the event started at 7 p.m., police stopped letting people into the lounge at approximately 6:50 p.m. because the room reached capacity. 

As the event started, an already large crowd outside the IMU doubled in size as over 200 people started chanting “Hey hey ho ho these fascists have got to go!” 

The crowd marched from Hubbard Park to the entrance of the IMU lounge and shouted event attendees as they waited in line to enter the event. 

During his speech inside the IMU, Walsh spoke about the “gender ideologues” and how biological sex defines men and women and that gender identity is instead a difference in personality, not gender. 

“I don’t think that sex and gender are the same,” Walsh said. “Now, there was a time perhaps when [gender ideologues] would have agreed that there is at least a biological difference between a woman who is female and a self-identified, you know, a self-identified woman who was male, but now you have erased that difference. You say that trans women are women. You insist that they’re the same in every way.” 

As a protester on Wednesday, UI third-year student Stephanie Rodriguez said it is disheartening that the University of Iowa allowed Walsh’s lecture to happen. 

“​​I wanted to come out here and support as much as I could just because this is a really big issue on campus,” Rodriguez.  

UI third-year student Max Berg said he attended the lecture to spectate the event and the protest. 

“I’m not trying to see Matt Walsh. I’m just trying to see what happens to be honest. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime type of event. To see, like, something like that, I just really want to see something unfold,” Berg said. 

Supporters of Walsh, like UI third-year student Spencer Schwantes, said he came to the event because he wanted to see Walsh in person. 

“I listen to his podcast like every day, I do agree with who he is,” Schwantes said. 

Leading up to Walsh’s event, which was held by the Iowa Young American for Freedom, students, and citizens chalked supportive messages for transgender people on the T. Anne Cleary Walkway and released multiple petitions against Walsh which garnered almost 4,000 signatures.

The UI Undergraduate Student Government wrote in a statement Wednesday that its members will continue to work with campus stakeholders to address an increase of transphobia and queerphobia on campus. 

“We recognize that recent local and nationwide events are targeting transgender individuals and may cause distress and/or harm to members of our student body,” USG wrote. 

UI second-year student Greyson Durian said as a transgender individual, Matt Walsh’s rhetoric is harmful.

“I think something needs to be done about it, and I think it’s awful that the university has allowed him in,” Durian said. 

UI first-year student Aida Mortl-Martin said they joined the protest because they believe the rights of transgender people need to be protected.

Walsh details hacked Twitter account, alleged attempts to silence his lecture at UI 

During his speech to a crowd of over 500 people in the IMU Main Lounge, Walsh told attendees about an invasion into his cell phone and Twitter account that resulted in confusing and misleading tweets from his account.

Walsh alleged that a hacker broke into his phone by switching the SD card on his phone to one in control of the hacker allowing the hacker access to his photos, texts, calls, files, emails, and more. 

According to Wired, the hacker broke into Walsh’s phone because he was “bored” and sent a series of out-of-character tweets bashing fellow conservative media hosts.

Walsh also said the attacks on his and his family’s privacy did nothing to deter him from continuing to spread the “objective truth” about gender ideology. 

“The gender ideology, this is a hill worth defending — a hill worth dying on because it’s the hill of basic fundamental truth,” Walsh said. “You can’t scare me off. You can’t make me retreat from this because there’s nowhere else to go from here. There are no other hills to defend after this. You know, I truly see the fight against gender ideology as the last stand for Western civilization. Because if the same side loses this — it’s over.”

After Walsh spoke, protestors joined in arms and took to the streets outside the IMU to protest Walsh’s anti-transgender views. Protestors first blocked cars on Madison Street and then migrated up to Market to block traffic. 

Protestors shouted a mix of phrases from “Trans rights are human rights,” to “Fascists go home,” as they flooded the streets late into Wednesday night.