EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: Conservative students call police after 'Build the Wall' banner torn down
The group's president told Campus Reform that “UF has failed in its responsibility to be a marketplace of ideas, and instead is becoming a bastion of anti-free speech activism.”
Conservative students at the University of Florida had their "Build the Wall" banner torn down multiple times in two days.
Members of a Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) chapter at the University of Florida (UF) called police after having their “Build the Wall" banner torn down.
Members of the UF YAF chapter say they initially obtained a permit to display the banner on Monday, but that the large sign was torn down within a few hours. Determined to defend their right to free speech, YAF organizers met again Monday evening to build a new banner, which two females tore down on Tuesday and then ran away with as YAF members Philip Smith, Victor Santos, and Dylan Finucan chased after them.
In video captured by the YAF members and shared with Campus Reform, the YAF members can repeatedly be heard asking why the female students tore their banner down, while the female students attempt to hide their faces.
“Why would you tear down our property?” one of the YAF members asked.
The female with blue hair can also be seen lunging at Santos after he attempts to record her. Smith can be heard asking the female not to touch Santos. After Smith asked the females why they “don’t think our ideas should be listened to,” one of the females, dressed in a black hooded sweatshirt, responds by saying, “your ideas are violent.”
The YAF members continued to question and follow the students for several minutes. The students justified the vandalism by stating they were threatened. “Who cares about your f---ing speech?” one girl asked. When Smith stated that the banner was not life-threatening, the hooded student responded, “you are dangerous!”
The confrontation then became more tense with the hooded individual approaching Smith directly while yelling “get the f--k out of my face.”
“Okay, well can you not [cut down the banner]. Excuse me!” Smith responded. “This is theft, you know...can you please give me my property back?”
Smith and other YAF members informed the group of students that the police had been called. Undeterred, the students continued with the torn down banner and refused to return it to the YAF members.
“You’re infringing on my free speech by tearing down my poster,” Smith protested.
“This is my free speech,” the student with the banner replied.
The video concludes with police en route.
Campus Reform asked one officer about the incident, who said he could not legally provide information until a police report had been filed. Campus Reform also reached out to Smith, Finucan, Santos, and UF YAF President Sarah Long.
"I can’t believe that students think they’re fighting fascism by vandalizing and stealing private property,” Smith told Campus Reform. “They may not like it, but they’re the ones acting like fascists. A banner shouldn’t require around the clock police protection.”
Finucan and Santos agreed.
“It’s sad that on a university campus, a place hailed for openness, diversity, and inquiry of thought, that UF YAF had to call the police twice for vandalization and theft of our property, Finucan said. “I don’t understand those who say that our speech is violent when they decide to vandalize and steal property because they disagree with the message.”
“As a legal immigrant of mixed race, it’s pretty baffling that these two white girls took down our banner because it was ‘racist and violent,’ while they were the ones that got charged for being violent and intolerant,” Santos added. “One girl lunged at me to try to grab my phone, meaning they wanted anonymity. It’s like they don’t even understand what civil disobedience is.”
While Santos referenced charges in the statement, Campus Reform could not confirm whether charges are, in fact, pending, although Long said the group planned to press charges. Long added that “UF has failed in its responsibility to be a marketplace of ideas, and instead is becoming a bastion of anti-free speech activism.”
“Not only has the university censored YAF to the point where a First Amendment lawsuit was our only remedy, but students now are so threatened by the concept of intellectual diversity that they are willing to destroy, not only YAF’s property but any property that might get in the way of their destruction,” Long said, referring to a UF gymnastics banner that was also torn down by the students.
Campus Reform reached out to the UF Police Department for copies of the police reports and any records related to filed charges. Debbie Fleming, a program assistant at UFPD according to her LinkedIn profile, said UFPD filed a complaint regarding one of the incidents to the Florida Office of the State Attorney for the Eighth Judicial Circuit. Because the incident is now being investigated by the state attorney’s office, Fleming said, UFPD could not share or comment on the police reports.
It is unclear to which incident the UFPD complaint to the state attorney’s office refers. Campus Reform asked for names and details of those named in the police report, but Fleming said UFPD could not comment. UFPD would also not identify who the complaint was filed against or comment on the potential filing of criminal charges.
Campus Reform contacted the Florida Office of the State Attorney for the Eighth Judicial Circuit in an attempt to obtain the police reports or any additional information. Darry Lloyd, the Deputy Chief Investigator and Public Information Officer at the state attorney’s office, said he was unaware of the incidents referred to but would provide more information as his office processed the police reports.
Finucan told Campus Reform that he, too, attempted to obtain the police reports, as he claims he is mentioned in all three and that he gave sworn statements and evidence to the police. UFPD said they could not share this information as it was now part of the investigation in the state attorney’s office.
Campus Reform also reached out to the University of Florida for comment.
“The University of Florida supports the First Amendment right to freedom of expression,” UF spokesman Steve Orlando said. “UF encourages the free exchange of ideas and embraces its role as a place where people from all walks of life come to debate, agree or disagree and express themselves without fear of censorship or reprisal.”
Orlando further directed Campus Reform to UF’s free speech webpage.
Disclosure: The writer of this article is a general body member of UF YAF but did not take part in the planning, organizing, or execution of this event.
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @eduneret