Students angered by ‘free speech wall’ built in Plaza

Stuart Smith

A “free speech wall” was built out of recycled cardboard boxes in the plaza by Colorado State University students who support Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump around noon on Tuesday.

Various amounts of students filtered in and out of the area, but in general there were around eight or nine Trump supporters and fifteen students who were unhappy about the wall. By the end of the demonstration, there were about 75 people around the wall.

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Even though the builders of the wall are supporters of Trump, they said that the wall was for everyone to express themselves.

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The “Free Speech” Wall on the CSU Plaza. (Tony Villalobos May| Collegian) Photo credit: Tony Villalobos May

 

“It’s just a free speech demonstration,” said Juan Caro, an organizer of the demonstration.”The Democrats have a presence on campus every day… They have a Trump piñata… They’re hitting a presidential candidate with a stick. It’s free speech… they have the right to do that.”

The first boxes of the wall had pro-Trump writing on them, but almost immediately a Clinton supporter hung a sign on the wall saying “Love Trumps Hate.”

Other phrases on the wall included:

  • Proud Deplorable
  • Female Lives Matter
  • Build that Wall!
  • Minority Lives Matter
  • Walls don’t work
  • #FreeMilo
  • What did Harambe know?
  • Hillary for Prison 2016

At one point, a woman wrote on the wall, “your fame is not an excuse to grab my pussy.” Another woman wrote, “don’t grab my pussy.”

In response, Emily Faulkner, one of the builders of the wall wrote, “Bill Clinton is a rapist.”

Caro said that the purpose of the demonstration was to express conservative student’s right to free speech on the plaza.

“We should have a free speech demonstration, so we had one for Trump,” Caro said. “We were bothered by the Trump piñata, but we do understand it is their first amendment right, and we thought we would just exercise our first amendment right.”

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Juan Caro, Conservative Interest Group chairman speaking during the protest. (Tony Villalobos May| Collegian)

 

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Despite this, many students were agitated by the wall and that it was put up by supporters of Trump.

Erica Lafehr, a third year Sociology and Ethnic Studies major, began a debate with the Trump supporters who were there, going through a slew of talking points about racism and immigration.

“White people don’t want to do the labor that is done by undocumented immigrants,” Lafehr said. “Do you want to go pick strawberries out in California in the fields all day?

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Erica Lafehr, junior, speaks out at the protest. (Tony VIllalobos May| Collegian) Photo credit: Tony Villalobos May

 

At various times, the wind in the plaza picked up enough to knock down the wall, to which some students responded by vandalizing the wall.

The first time the wall fell, one student ran up, stole a box, and then ran away from the wall as quickly as he could.

Another time, several students came up to wall and started jumping on it, crushing the boxes, preventing them from being reused in the wall or any future one.

At one point, a student walked up the wall as if to write something, but instead pulled out a pair of scissors and started cutting up one of the boxes.

While it was only a couple of people that were either vocally for or against the wall, most of the several dozen students gathered were there to see what was going on.

Bronson Torres, one of the attending students, said he was initially against the plaza free speech wall, but his opinion changed after watching the demonstration.

“At first I hated (the wall) because I thought it was just a metaphor for Trump’s wall… but an hour later I love it,” Torres said. “I think it represents CSU very well because there’s such a diversity of opinions here, unlike some other colleges.”

Caro said that there are plans to try and build a wall at other campuses around the state, and that he hopes to do so at CU Boulder and University of Northern Colorado.

“This is not to agitate people, this is to encourage discussion, debate, and open conversations,” Caro said.

Collegian reporter Stuart Smith can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @notstuartsmith.