Katie Hopkins, a British conservative media pundit, internationally known for her far-right and anti-Muslim statements, came to Alachua County to share her message.
More than 500 people attended the 18th annual Ronald Reagan Black Tie and Blue Jeans BBQ Thursday evening in the Legacy Park Multipurpose Center, located in the City of Alachua. Hopkins and Larry Elder, a conservative radio talk-show host based in Los Angeles, spoke at the event hosted by the Alachua County Republican Executive Committee.
Masks were rarely in sight — when they were, many were branded with the American flag, “Make America Great Again” or “Trump 2020.”
While speaking in favor of President Donald Trump, Hopkins also pushed theories about Muslims taking over the U.K. and told the crowd to use their First and Second Amendment rights.
Dressed in a bright red dress with a Trump 2020 pin, Hopkins said she came to Alachua as a part of her U.S. speaking tour in support of the president, despite these stops not being on the official campaign’s list of events.
Hopkins has also pushed the idea that immigration and multiculturalism leads to white genocide. She faced backlash after comparing migrants to cockroaches and suggesting that a photograph of a dead Syrian boy on a Turkish beach was staged.
Elder is a former lawyer who hosts a daily radio show, where he discusses politics and race. He also makes YouTube videos with The Epoch Times, an international newspaper that pushes conspiracy theories, such as QAnon and anti-vaccination propaganda.
The event lasted about five hours until about 9 p.m. Prices ranged from $25 for student tickets to $3,000 for a VIP table.
Organizers spaced the white round tables about 6 feet as a COVID-19 precaution, former Gainesville mayor and party chair Ed Braddy said. No one could enter without a mask, he said. Masks could be removed when eating or drinking.
People attended to “galvanize the energy” for President Trump, Braddy said before rushing into the recreation center.
On stage, Hopkins introduced herself as a straight, white, Christian, patriot, nationalist mother of three.
“I’m known as the the biggest b**** in Britain,” she quipped during the speech.
To Hopkins, this election isn’t about red or blue but about defending American values of faith, family and freedom. She added that she wants to help save the U.S. from becoming “lost” like the United Kingdom.
Aside from pushing conspiracies about Muslims taking over western society, she also made jabs about her Muslim friends having 16 children.
“I’m just kidding,” she said on stage. “I don’t have any Muslims friends.”
The crowd responded in fits of laughter.
Dee Basso, a 52-year-old event volunteer, touted an American flag-decorated scarf and an “I love Trump” pin. The retired attorney said the event is an example of camaraderie.
“We’re not a bunch of gun-slinging, wife-beating racists,” Basso said.
While Basso said she wasn’t aware of Hopkins’ comments about Muslims, she said she was looking forward to hearing all the speakers.
U.S. District 1 Congressman Matt Gaetz led chants of “USA” that rang throughout the room. He told the crowd America is the greatest country that has ever existed.
“These are the folks that do the extra door knocking and phone calling to earn victory for Republicans,” he said. “I wanted to come and offer my thanks.”
U.S. District 1 Congressman Matt Gaetz at the 18th annual Ronald Reagan Black Tie and Blue Jeans BBQ Thursday evening.
Asta Hemenway is a third-year senior majoring in Journalism. Born in Tallahassee, she grew up Senegalese American. When she’s not writing or doing school, she loves watching Netflix and Tiktok in her spare time.
Alan Halaly is a first-year journalism and Spanish major and the East Gainesville Beat Reporter. This is his second semester on staff, and he previously worked as a news assistant on the Metro desk. He's excited to use this semester to shine a spotlight on underserved communities in Gainesville.