College Dems display banner of Trump in KKK hood

The University of Toledo College Democrats recently hung a banner depicting President Trump wearing a Ku Klux Klan hood in an effort to recruit new students to their organization.

The group sparked outrage earlier this week by displaying a large recruitment banner in the Thompson Student Union that depicted the commander-in-chief in a KKK outfit, prompting school President Sharon Gaber to issue a statement condemning the provocative display.

“I want to address a banner that was put up yesterday in the Thompson Student Union that I personally find offensive,” Gaber said in an email to students on Wednesday. “I’ve heard from several other members of our community as well, across the political spectrum, who feel the same way.”

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“I have been asked why we didn’t remove the banner and why we let it go up in the first place,” Gaber continued. “The reason is that the University of Toledo respects the First Amendment rights of our students, faculty, and staff. While we may not always agree with the way individuals or organizations choose to express their views, we must respect their freedom to do so.”

In response to Gaber’s email, a College Democrats member, Connor Kelley, posted a picture of the banner on Twitter, arguing that it was displayed in an effort to “address real issues of systemic racism.”

“Yesterday we hung up this banner in the Student Union,” Kelley wrote. “That apparently warranted a condescending email sent out to the entire student body. Campus should be an inclusive place, which is why the banner went up.”

Earlier this month, Kelley tweeted a picture of the same banner, calling Trump “the face of the KKK” and urging students to attend College Democrats meetings.

According to The Toledo Blade, the banner was removed Wednesday afternoon, though a university spokesperson claimed that school did not take it down.

The president of the UT College Republicans, Shane Logan told the Blade that “free speech is not hate speech,” but later clarified in an interview with Campus Reform that such speech “is protected under the First Amendment.” 

“Personally I thought it was stupid for [the College Democrats] to put the banner up. Although from the political angle I think it was great because it shows their true colors,” he explained. “Whether we like it or not, it is protected under the First Amendment. And just about everyone is pissed off/did not like the banner being up there, so the Democrats screwed themselves.”

[RELATED: Student mistakes lab equipment for ‘ACTIVE KKK group’]

On Thursday, the university also held a town hall meeting with the intent of encouraging open discourse about the banner, the newspaper reported. 

During the event, Alex Seifert, a communications director of the UT College Democrats, defended the decision to display the banner, arguing that the group was “trying to, in a very public way, find other people who feel threatened and help them have a forum to fight against those sorts of policies.”

Another student, however, argued that the banner did a disservice to other liberal students on campus.

“Your banner and your individual right to freely speak have spoken for an entire group of people who as a whole do not support this message,” said Elizabeth Layhew. “By constructing and displaying this banner you have spoken for your fellow Democrats who did not approve of this banner. Not every liberal student at the University of Toledo warrants taking cheap shots like you’ve taken to gain attention to your cause.”

Follow the authors of this article on social media: Nikita Vladimirov and @asabes10