Students clash over #Walkaway event Chico State says it will defend free speech

by Leslie Layton

Chico State staffers were gathering this morning on a campus walkway in an effort to prevent any more altercations over the tactics of the campus Republican club. But today, instead of noisy protesting, a video posted on social media showed a group of protesters dancing to music as they faced the club’s booth.

photo by Karen Laslo
A student protester sat alone this morning before more students gathered.

The campus newspaper The Orion reported an altercation or altercations had occurred earlier in the week as the Republican club promotes its #Walkaway event that will bring controversial speakers to campus this evening. The club had erected two booths on the walkway by Meriam Library this morning, where they had hoisted multiple American flags, a Blue Lives Matter flag and a pro-Trump banner.

Clashes between students that reflect the polarization in the country have broken out on several large campuses. Police made arrests Wednesday at UC Berkeley at a demonstration the San Francisco Chronicle called “rowdy” at an event featuring right-wing pundit Ann Coulter.

Republican club President Michael Curry told ChicoSol he had been the victim of a battery when a protester on Wednesday grabbed his “All Lives Matter” sign, and, he said, struck him. A video showing an upset student shouting, grabbing the paper and swatting him with it was posted on Twitter, and club members were excitedly watching their cell phones this morning as the video neared 1 million views.

Earlier this morning, a lone student who asked not to be identified sat on the other side of a fence that had been erected to separate protesters from the club booth and clear the walkway for pedestrians. The student was playing the protest song “FDT (Fuck Donald Trump)” on a music player, and indicated they were frustrated that the Republican students were using the club as a platform and excuse to make statements they said were “racist” and “transphobic.”

photo by Karen Laslo
Michael Curry, a third-year political science major, hosts the Chico State Republicans booth.

Tension on campus has been further elevated by photos posted on social media that show fraternity club members at a recent party dressed as “Mexicans.” A campus source said some fraternities have an annual tradition that involves imitating other cultural dress and drinking traditions.

President Gayle Hutchinson on Wednesday released a statement that said the university values diversity and condemns harassment, but will defend free speech — even when it’s ugly. “…the University is an ardent supporter of the First Amendment, which protects even speech that many find hateful and abhorrent and may be in conflict with the values we hold as a community,” the statement reads.

Several individuals and groups on Twitter called on the university to cancel the club’s #Walkaway event that is designed to encourage departures from the Democratic Party.

The Chico chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) posted a tweet that elicited a response from Assemblyman James Gallagher (R-Yuba City), who said he looks forward to “hearing more about the swift actions being taken” to stop the “violence and intimidation” on campus.

The DSA’s Nathaniel Perry said the right is using “cherry-picked” video that shows students reacting emotionally to provocation.

“It’s fine to advocate for free speech,” Perry said, “but saying the other side doesn’t want free speech based on a video… I would question what’s the best use of the assemblyman’s time.”

Students are organizing a peaceful protest to be held outside the Bell Memorial Union this evening where the #Walkaway event will be held.

2 thoughts on “Students clash over #Walkaway event Chico State says it will defend free speech

    1. Charles, the dates of our stories appear right under the “Read more” or below the “Follow and like us.” (We know this is problematic and hope to improve visibility soon by moving the date to the top.) In this case, the Walkaway story posted on Nov. 22. I hope you follow us on Facebook, too, which helps us get the word about new postings out quickly.

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