The University of Minnesota held a “Paint the Bridge” event this past Friday at the Washington Avenue Bridge, and the school’s College Republicans dared — dared!! — to paint the phrase “Build the Wall” on one section of the structure.
As a result, the Minnesota Daily reports, the message has been painted over several times since, with one counter message reading “Stop White Supremacy.”
There was also a 150 person-strong protest yesterday in response to the “xenophobic” phrase, organized by the “immigrant student advocacy group” Navigate MN.
As is often the case (sadly), the concept of free speech eluded some of those in attendance.
“This is free speech and we are completely in agreement with that, but when the speech marginalizes other people and builds hate, and hateful actions against other people, that’s when you have to draw the line,” said Emilia Avalos, executive director of Navigate MN.
Unfortunately, even some college officials don’t comprehend the First Amendment, either:
[M]any who attended the protest echoed Avalos’ statements about the limits of free speech and criticized [UM President Eric] Kaler’s response to the painting.
“I just hate how people are hating on other people who weren’t born here,” said Natasha Kataeva, a University biology graduate who immigrated to the United States, “I think the fact that it was vandalized is wrong because of freedom of speech, but at the same time, I’m not really too upset about the vandalism.”
Catherine Squires, communications professor and director of the Race, Indigeneity, Gender and Sexuality Studies Initiative, said at the event that it is important for faculty members to participate in these types of discussions “especially faculty of color — many of us have been through these sorts of situations when we were students…”
Heather C. Lou, assistant director of the Multicultural Center for Academic Excellence, said on Facebook that she and other University staff members would organize a support space for students on Monday.
“I recognize folks are feeling impacted by the xenophobic and racist statement on the bridge panels today. The UMN bias incident team has been contacted,” she said in the post.
The CRs were reported to the Orwellian bias incident team??
Great job there, Ms. Lou. Maybe, for once, instead of subjecting the CRs to some nonsense “diversity training” you and some of the protesters can take a course on the history of the First Amendment.
— David Clarey (@david_clarey) October 1, 2016
Thankfully, President Kaler already seems to be educated about it:
“The University of Minnesota supports a campus climate that welcomes all members of our community and our values of equity and diversity, but that also ensures the free flow of ideas, even those that are offensive to some.
“We encourage all who find some protected speech distasteful or offensive to engage in more protected speech.”
IMAGE: hunt notkoo/Shutterstock