College Republicans at the University of Minnesota had their mural vandalized this weekend during the University’s annual “Paint The Bridge” event, where registered student groups and University departments promote their groups by painting panels on the Washington Avenue Bridge.
The controversial panels were painted by the College Republicans which included a phrase from Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump’s campaign, “Build The Wall”. This refers to Trump’s often-repeated campaign promise to build a wall along the United States-Mexico border to stop illegal immigrants from entering the US. The other panel said “Trump Pence 2016”. Later, vandals spray painted over both panels “Stop white supremacy”.
The vandalism of the panels prompted University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler to issue a statement, which read: “…one panel assigned to a student group has received attention. The panel includes the phrase from Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, “Build the wall.” While this is protected as free, political speech, we have heard from members of our community who find the phrase hurtful, offensive, anti-immigrant and anti-Latinx. People in our community may disagree with the sentiment expressed. However, while the University values free speech, the subsequent vandalism of the panel is not the way to advance a conversation.”
(Latinx is the gender-neutral alternative to Latino, Latina, according to the Huffington Post)
A group of students who did not support the vandalism gathered later to protest what they called anti-immigrant hate speech, saying that the murals were xenophobic and targeted specific groups of people.
Madison Faupel, President of the U of M College Republicans issued a press release today that states, “We find it highly disturbing that someone would vandalize a simple statement such as “build the wall.”
The statement goes on to say, “We have received comments on the painting, falsely accusing us of being racist, xenophobic and anti-immigrant. Our party’s nominee supports building a wall on the Mexican border to stop the flow of illegal immigrants into this country. We understand that some students may disagree with this policy position. However, free speech is at the center of a functioning democracy, and the actions taken against our panels runs contrary to free speech. It’s worth noting that numerous politicians from both parties support building a wall on the Mexican border.”
Faupel’s statement points out that President Barack Obama, Vice-President Joe Biden and Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton have all supported building a wall on the US/Mexican border while they were all U.S. Senators in the Secure Fence Act of 2006. “We look forward to students writing angry letters and reporting these Democrat politicians to the Bias Incident System for hurting their feelings as well,” Faupel wrote.