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Free speech controversy on Walker Lawn

On Friday, Nov. 10, the student organization Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) hosted a free speech event on Walker Lawn. YAF presented two particle boards with cans of spray paint, inviting students to exercise their right to free speech by spray painting anything on the boards. One member commented that individuals can cover up what others had painted, but that their own speech might be covered by others as well.

President of the organization, Andrew Feys, explained the origin of the event, “We are celebrating the fall of the Berlin Wall. This event marks the fall of the Berlin Wall years ago and people can show their free speech on the board and just ya know say what they want to say.” Students had no doubt voiced their opinions on the boards throughout the event – at the beginning, there were clear opinionated stances from multiple communities on campus. As the event progressed, it grew harder to determine the opinions of those who spray painted the board. This impacted the perception of the event by students as they passed the boards throughout the duration. Feys announced that the event had “gone pretty well, we have lots of participation from other people as well that have different opinions maybe than the club, which is great because we love free speech.” 

Although the event was held in recognition of 34 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, on which political graffiti and artwork was common, this was not clearly communicated to participating students. When asked about his thoughts on the event, sophomore participant Julien explained that he didn’t know the event was in celebration prior to being interviewed.

Several hours after the beginning of YAF’s event, a protest and petition were started. The protest, organized by Lexi Tator, was geared toward the hate speech present on the spray painted boards. Tator commented, “I believe that this organization is spreading hate and hate speech and our community is doing nothing about it.” This is why the protest was started, and the same opinions were echoed throughout the other protestors. Protestor Jack Summers explained, “I’m upset that they’re allowed to say this kind of horrible stuff under the veil of free speech.” The small group of protesters stood close to the Young Americans for Freedom display, and held signs depicting “No room for hate speech” and “Trans lives matter.” Club members who were distributing the spray paint to participants refrained from commenting on the protest.

The petition, started by an MTU student who wishes to remain anonymous, “asks the administration of Michigan Tech to consider putting into place some level of measure to regulate specifically hate speech on campus.” The individual created the petition in response to having several conversations with students who were made uncomfortable due to the messages promoted at the YAF event. They commented, “although I am not a part of these minority groups that are directly affected, I understand that I have the ability to use my voice to help others, and this was the best way I knew I could.”

One Response

  1. Well written account of the actual event, unfortunately it appears that the spin-machine is turning this into another “We’re the victims” of liberalism thing. Anyway, good work on writing the actual happenings of the day in question. Good luck with the FauxNewz coverage coming your way.

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