Turning Point USA, the conservative student action group founded by Charlie Kirk, is holding its annual Student Action Summit in Palm Beach County, Florida this weekend. Featuring speakers like Tucker Carlson, Donald Trump Jr., and Mike Pence, the event sold out quickly – especially given the fact that county officials slapped a capacity requirement on the event to enable social distancing protocols.
As the event was underway Saturday, Palm Beach County officials suddenly stopped allowing students to enter the convention center lobby to register, saying the event was over capacity, and stranding hundreds of students outside the door – packed like sardines. Of course, in that environment rumors start quickly and are amplified on social media. It was reported that TPUSA was attempting to do same-day registration at the convention center, that they were unregistering attendees, and that they oversold the event. TPUSA officials tell RedState that none of those rumors are true.
According to the TPUSA officials we spoke with, there were no capacity restrictions in the original contract, which was signed before the pandemic hit, but that subsequently county officials told them capacity would be limited to 50 percent and that masks would be required. TPUSA agreed to those restrictions and developed an overflow plan, which Palm Beach County officials approved.
TPUSA’s overflow plan provided for overflow attendees to participate in the conference, with social distancing rules enforced, from the exhibit hall, where they could watch the speakers via livestream. All attendees, whether assigned to the main ballroom or the overflow, would still have to go through the check-in process in the lobby to get their badges first. Palm Beach County officials blocked students from even accessing the lobby once they determined that the main ballroom was at capacity, stranding overflow attendees outside with no information – and without informing TPUSA conference organizers about what they were doing.
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Palm Beach County officials told the local CBS affiliate that TPUSA had oversold tickets to the conference and that they were “adhering to the contractual agreement with Turing Point of a 2,000 person capacity; this leaves 500-600 people unable to enter the Convention Center.” TPUSA officials say that at the time county officials blocked the entrance the main ballroom was at 37 percent capacity (below the 50 percent threshold the county instituted) and that officials denied them the ability to enact the overflow plan without notice, because they prohibited students from even entering the lobby to get their badges – and they can’t get to the overflow area without a badge.
Once the speakers heard about what was going on outside, they decided to take the conference to the stranded students.
TPUSA is working with the county to ensure that every attendee will be able to take part in Sunday’s conference session, with one official saying that what happened Saturday was a “typical COVID backfire.”