Stanford student organizers and activists intend to protest former Vice President Mike Pence’s Thursday speaker event by coordinating organized walk-outs and marches at the venue.
Several flyers posted around campus advertise that protesters will gather in White Plaza to make signs before marching to Dinkelspiel Auditorium, where the Stanford College Republicans (SCR) will host Pence for an hour-long event that SCR is calling “How to Save America from the Woke Left.” The organizers have reportedly encouraged students to reserve tickets for the 7 p.m. event and walk out in protest, according to instructions on flyers posted by protest organizers.
Titled “Stand Against Hate at Stanford” and “Hate Cannot Be Taught Here,” the flyers include an image of Pence with red markings over his eyes and contain information about the location and timing of Thursday’s protest.
“There are hundreds of students on the waitlist who want to see the former Vice President speak but will not be able to. Walking out and denying these students the opportunity to see the VP is wrong,” SCR spokesperson Walker Stewart ’23 wrote in a statement to The Daily. He added that if students do walk out, other students waiting outside will be allowed inside to take their place.
The protest will be divided into two parts — the 5 p.m. sign-making portion, which will consist of a smaller group of protesters crafting signs with protest messages, followed by a planned march to the auditorium at 5:30 p.m. to rally against the event.
The leaders of the protest are Eva Jones ’25 and Ritwik Tati ’25, who is also a news writer at The Daily. According to Jones, their aims are “to just create a space of resistance to the hate that Mike Pence has taught — and continues to teach — with his policy.” Jones added, “If you’re queer, if you’re brown, if you’re low-income — it’s a threat.”
“These claims are preposterous and indicative of a broader strategy the left uses by attempting to smear conservatives as bigots and construe our speech as violence as a way of avoiding actually engaging with conservative ideas on a level playing field,” Stewart wrote.
Joint planning for the protest began in early February when organizers of various social advocacy groups gathered at an “activist mixer” event to discuss calls to action, according to two frosh in Stanford’s Young Democratic Socialists of America chapter. The frosh, who plan to attend the protests, requested anonymity due to fear of retaliation.
“The main goal of the protest is to demonstrate the fact that we don’t want to tolerate someone who spouts very hateful rhetoric coming on campus,” one of the frosh protesters said.
Jones accused Pence of “making hatred a platform on the national stage” and argued that the policies he supported in the Trump administration and throughout his political career have harmed minority groups, including the LGBTQ+ community and racial minorities.
Jones and Tati, who have both engaged in climate change-related activism in the past, also labeled Pence as being “anti-science.” Jones said it was “ironic that at such a prominent research institution” a speaker would be welcomed who has “denied science on a national and international level.”
Stanford students have cited concerns about Pence’s backing of restrictive voter laws, support for privatization of healthcare and votes against collective bargaining attempts as evidence of what they see as a pattern of harmful policies and rhetoric executed by the former vice president during his time in office.
Jones and Tati emphasized that they, along with activists from groups like YDSA, hope to create a safe environment for students who feel threatened by Pence’s visit.
The organizers said they are encouraging protestors to mask and practice social distancing, and that they are striving to create “a very inclusive organizing space,” according to Jones.
“We’re not going to try to do anything harmful or dangerous,” one of the frosh in YDSA said.
Following the larger rally, organizers will transition to a tabling event, where they plan to broadcast calls to action. Protesters will be able to approach tables nearby and sign up to get involved with the campus groups that helped organize the protests, such as YDSA.
Jones and Tati offered advice for left-leaning students who are considering attending Pence’s event to hear him speak or ask questions: “Pence has shown us with his actions what he does with his power and his privilege, and quite frankly, that’s harming others,” Jones said. “If you think he’s going to say something new, I would say you’re wrong.”
Campus political groups remain divided over the intentions behind Pence’s visit. SCR has advertised the event as an exhibition of free speech and diversity of opinion on campus. In a previous statement to The Daily, SCR spokesperson Stephen Sills ’22 wrote that the group wants Pence to “make the case for American Freedom.” Jones, however, criticized the notion that Pence can offer a new perspective.
“I don’t think that bigotry is a perspective that is needed, to be quite honest,” Jones said. “I don’t think that is a two-sided thing. We don’t need another voice.”
This article has been updated to include the comments from the Stanford College Republicans.
This article has been corrected to attribute the SCR statement to Walker Stewart, not Stephen Sills. The Daily regrets this error.