Protesters attempted to disrupt a debate on transgenderism at the University of Pittsburgh on Tuesday night, detonating a smoke bomb and burning a dummy featuring the face of one of the debate's speakers.
Campus police released an emergency notification near the start of the debate, between commentators Michael Knowles and Brad Polumbo, after an explosion was heard on campus, the Pitt News reported. Police later identified the source of the explosion as a combination of a firework and smoke bomb. More than 250 people participated in the protest of the debate, which concerned the question of whether transgenderism should be regulated by law.
"This was not a protest like for the other ones," said Dylan Mitchell, president of Pitt College Republicans. "This was a riot."
Knowles was originally set to debate transgender professor Deirdre McCloskey at the university, before the professor backed out a week prior to the event. Polumbo stepped in to replace McCloskey, arguing against regulation of transgender issues.
Pitt police tweeted Tuesday evening that students had lit "an incendiary device" outside the debate venue. Protesters on the street burned a dummy bearing a picture of Knowles’s face.
Joke’s on them—I’m still alive! https://t.co/8w6xyMs4Ug
— Michael Knowles (@michaeljknowles) April 19, 2023
Student activists had called for Knowles to be banned from appearing on campus, citing his speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference last month in which he said "transgenderism must be eradicated from public life."
"I think it’s super screwed up that we’re letting people spread really dangerous information about, like, eradicating ‘transgenderism,’ or whatever they’re saying," one student commented.
Police detained protesters at the event but no arrests were made as of Wednesday morning, WTAE reported.
Earlier this month, Riley Gaines, who advocates against biological men participating in women's sports, alleged she was assaulted by transgender activists during her speech at San Francisco State University.
Last month, law students at Stanford University shouted down conservative speaker and appellate judge Kyle Duncan as he attempted to speak to members of the school's Federalist Society.