Chalking for Free Speech

Today Young Americans for Liberty hosted a Free Speech Event targeting both the University’s “Free Speech Zone” policy as well as its “Chalking” policy. Our Chapter has identified both of these policies as violations of our First Amendment rights and decided to take a stand against them. Guidelines state that chalk may only be used on campus permitting it is done by a registered student organization promoting a specific event, so we decided to stretch the rules (stretched them about 100 yards) and allowed everyone to write whatever they pleased under our name: Pro-Trump, Anti-Trump, LGBT rights, Save the Bees, Stop Global Warming, End the Drug War, and even Support our Troops. My favorite was a portrait drawn of President Trump with a wide variety of opinions of him written with arrows pointing at him. Check out the pictures! //imgur.com/a/BXeVP

We had a couple of notable encounters during the event. Firstly, the Dean of Students, JJ Brown and the Director of Student Development, Dustin Evatt, paid us a visit about half an hour into our event. We received a warning that the duo would be coming and were bracing for a confrontation of sorts, but we were pleasantly surprised to see that they had no role in drafting the policies and were actually there to show support.

Next, about an hour into the event, two rabid preachers came on scene and started their typical yelling at students, damning them to hell and such. Usually students mutter something under their breath or briefly engage in a shouting match, but with our event already underway, students were free to write their thoughts directly next to the preachers. For instance, when the preacher condemned the LGBT community, students wrote things like “God loves everybody” and “Gay sex is sin-sational.” These preachers would hang around until the end of the event, providing people passing by with a divine inspiration of sorts. 

Lastly, Johnny Law rolled up. The Appalachian State Police Officer inspected what students had written and after noticing a large phallic object, decided it was necessary to come speak with us. As Co-President Nick Williams said so eloquently, “We don’t tell them what to write, we just give them the chalk.” The officer debated obscenities with us for a time, namely whether the large phallic object with an arrow pointing at the preacher would be protected under the First Amendment. We spoke with the officer for about 15 minutes and he hung around the location for about an hour. There were no arrests or even requests to cease our activity, generally a very amicable conversation. 

We had more than a hundred students contribute in our event and had dozens more expressing their gratitude and support for our cause. We passed out more than fifty pocket constitutions, did some recruiting, and had lots of positive dialogue with people all over the political spectrum. We are hoping that with the Dean of Students on our side, the unconstitutional policies will finally be repealed, but if not we will be out there again and again.

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