A boxing for self-defense class hosted Sunday by UCF-based political activist group Knights For Socialism sparked criticism from conservative supporters who accused the club of promoting violence on UCF’s campus.
The class, titled “Leftist Fight Club,” has received national attention from conservative provocateur and Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos and Fox News due to its exclusivity. The event’s Facebook listing described it as “open for everyone and anyone – except for Republicans” and invited people to come out and learn how to “Bash the Fash.”
The event was moved away from its initial location at Lake Claire to another spot on campus, which KFS asked to remain undisclosed for privacy. The club members felt as though they weren’t safe due to the attention they had gotten online since the event was first announced.
This kind of exclusivity is against Florida’s rules for Registered Student Organizations. Currently, KFS is not an RSO, but is in the application process with the Student Government Association to become one.
Under the instruction of amateur boxer Adrian Mulet, 20, KFS ran through some fundamental boxing techniques. Mulet accepted the invitation to teach KFS because of his belief that everyone needs to know how to defend themselves from attackers, regardless of their politics.
“I think it’s always good for people to know some form of self-defense,” Mulet said. “If you’re unarmed and someone comes after you, there’s really nothing you can do to stop them unless you know how to fight.”
Dylan Tyer, a political science major and president of KFS, pointed to similar self-defense classes conducted by feminist organizations and the UCF Police Department designed to prevent sexual battery.
“What’s going on today is in response to violence,” Tyer, 19, said. “People in this group have been targets of hate speech and threats of violence, and we thought it would be smart to help them learn how to keep themselves safe.”
The classes have been criticized as part of a movement on the left that’s encouraging violence against conservatives. Incidents like the riot that erupted at University of California, Berkeley, last week have led to concerns that leftists are becoming dangerous and using violence to silence dissent.
Berkeley planned to host a speaking event in which Yiannopoulos would condemn the university for its status as a “sanctuary university” for illegal immigrants, but agitators in an anti-fascist protest group known as Antifa caused protests against the speech to break out into a violent riot, resulting in property damage in and around the campus.
Spencer Kovach, a junior political science major and president of the UCF Young Americans for Liberty, attended the class out of concern for the possibility of the classes being used for similar purposes as the Berkeley protests. Although KFS said the event was not open to Republicans, Kovach was not turned away.
“I’m a Trump supporter, so I feel threatened by the idea of violent movements like Antifa coming to UCF,” Kovach, 20, said. “But this was like, a dozen people learning to box. This was nothing to worry about.”