President Trump rails against pepper spray release at Park City High School (w/video)
President Trump recently spoke about an intentional release of pepper spray at Park City High School in April that was designed to stop a conservative club at the school from holding an event, telling a crowd in Washington, D.C., “anyone can become a target of the left’s brutal campaign to punish dissent.”
The president made the remarks on July 23 at a Student Action Summit organized by Turning Point USA, a conservative nonprofit. The pepper spray release in Park City was in protest of a conservative speaker who was scheduled to appear that evening. The high school’s chapter of Turning Point USA scheduled the speaker, Prager University’s Will Witt.
Ryan Zink, a leader in the Turning Point USA chapter at the high school, appeared on stage with the president and also addressed the crowd.
“Earlier this year, in Park City, Utah, a leftist released pepper spray into a high school auditorium to shut down a Turning Point USA meeting,” Trump said as he introduced Zink to applause. “Twenty students and teachers had to immediately seek major medical attention. Think of that. One of the students from that school joins us today — Ryan Zink. Ryan? Where are you, Ryan? Get over here, Ryan. Come on up here. Come on. Come up here, Ryan. Say a few words.”
The crowd chanted “Ryan” as he prepared to speak. Zink briefly addressed the crowd, talking about the ideal of a student’s freedom of speech. He spoke from the presidential lectern with Trump a few feet away.
“I do believe the free speech in our schools is currently at stake. Us conservative students — there are many cases: myself, some other people that I’ve met here, and across the country — are being silenced, are being shut down by — whether it be their schools, teachers, friends. We’re not being listened to properly. And our voices need to be proudly expressed. And we cannot be silenced,” Zink said.
Trump followed Zink by saying the student might have a future in politics.
“You know, he had no idea that was going to happen. But he started to like it. I said, ‘You know, this could be a long time.’ He’ll be in office someday or doing something fantastic. Thank you, Ryan. Great job,” the president said.
Following the pepper spray incident at the high school, an 18-year-old senior admitted to a count of criminal mischief, two counts of assault and a count of disrupting a meeting in 3rd District Juvenile Court. Fourteen other counts were dismissed. The student was 17 at the time of the incident.
The release of the pepper spray forced the evacuation of the building as students and teachers complained about respiratory issues. Fourteen people were treated at the high school. One person required hospitalization. The Turning Point USA event was moved to Ecker Hill Middle School.
The student at a juvenile court hearing explained his reasoning.
“I didn’t feel as though it was a very safe thing for a lot of our students to really have in our school, so I decided I wanted to disrupt it,” he said at the hearing.
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The Park City School District offices were inadvertently locked, but security footage was reviewed and the only two community members who showed up were let in and joined in an informal chat with Board of Education members and staff.