College cancels 'controversial' pro-gun event at last minute

Hampshire College cancelled an event featuring Second Amendment advocate Antonia Okafor last night, just three hours before she was slated to speak.

The event, “Women’s Empowerment & The Second Amendment with Antonia Okafor,” was scheduled for Wednesday night at Hampshire College, and was organized by Junoon, The Southeast Asian and International Students Association.

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Rahim Hirani, president of Junoon, received approval to host the event on Monday, according to an email thread obtained by Campus Reform. But at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, as Okafor was already on her way to campus, the school reversed course.

“The Contract Request Form that was submitted was denied because it did not have complete information about the presenter,” Carolyn Strycharz, director of campus leadership, informed Hirani by email, going on to call the very nature of the event “controversial.”

“Also, an event where someone is coming to campus to speak about the second amendment [sic], which is a very controversial subject, would need to have extra considerations and precautions put into place which cannot be done on such short notice,” she asserted.

Hirani, however, has disputed the school’s claim, telling Campus Reform that his event request clearly indicated that Okafor planned to speak on how women are empowered by the Second Amendment.

“My campus administration claims they cancelled the event because they didn’t have enough time to prep for a controversial event,” he said. “On the online application, I provided them with a picture of Antonia with two guns…and that she wants to advocate for women through the Second Amendment.”

Kassy Dillon, president of the Mount Holyoke College Republicans Club, also helped organize Okafor’s speech at Hampshire, and expressed disappointment with the last-minute cancellation.

“It’s very telling that Hampshire cancelled this speech for fear of controversy," Dillon remarked. "Antonia has been speaking at many schools during her recent tour and has not had a single protester or even needed a security presence."

Dillon has also been involved in organizing another event with Okafor at Mount Holyoke College on Thursday night.

The Mount Holyoke Climate Justice Coalition, which was “angered” by Okafor’s scheduled appearance, will hold an “Alternative Discussion” at the same time as Okafor's speech.

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Shannon Seigal, the group’s president, worried that promoting gun rights for women would not address the “patriarchy” and the “decades long misogyny” that causes violence against women.

“Men are predominantly the perpetrators behind violent, physical attacks and sexual assaults against women, gender minorities, and people of color. These groups of people already face systemic forces of oppression that strip them of their legal power, their voice, and their right to exist,” Seigal told Campus Reform, saying that arming “these groups of people with firearms does not get at the root of the problem,” which she believes is “the misogyny and centuries-long patriarchy.”

Hampshire later issued an apology to Okafor, “sincerely” apologizing for cancelling her speech, and insisting that it had nothing to do with “the speaker, the subject of the speech, or the content.”

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Toni_Airaksinen