The University of Minnesota College Republicans are facing down allegations of racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy after painting “Trump 2016” and “Build the Wall” on a segment of a campus bridge dedicated for their use.
“Paint the Bridge” is an annual event at the University of Minnesota where student groups are assigned to paint segments of a landmark on the campus. The segments are doled out by the Student Activities department on a first-come, first-served basis,
This year, though, what has normally been a civil event spiraled out of control and degenerated into protest and vandalism.
The school’s College Republicans snagged a spot big enough for a mural, and made the most of their real estate. Guidelines for painting the bridge are vague, and the College Republicans’ contribution this year included Donald Trump’s signature slogan—”Build The Wall.”
Unsurprisingly, University of Minnesota’s campus social justice warriors immediately took issue with the work, labeling their bridge segment racist, xenophobic and anti-Mexican.
— Minneapolis Now (@TLNMinneapolis) October 2, 2016
A student advocacy group called Navigate MN immediately organized a protest against the mural, which drew around 150 people, according to the student newspaper.
— David Clarey (@david_clarey) October 1, 2016
Vandals also painted over the campaign sign, and then again over the vandalism. Most recently, the words “Trump 2016” were covered with the phrase “Stop White Supremacy.”
Emilia Avalos, executive director for the Navigate MN, urged the university to take a stand against the mural, saying that the CRs are allowed to have their opinion—just not in a public place where other students can see it.
“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,” she said.
Some university faculty members, meanwhile, have pledged a “support space for students” following the incident.
— Jacob Steinberg (@jakemsteinberg) October 1, 2016
University President Eric Kaler asserted the school’s commitment to free speech: “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.”