Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Last week, we at the University of Toledo Young Americans for Liberty held our first ever free speech wall, and let me say it was something!
I got there at 8 a.m. and was greeted by a fellow UT YAL member Shayn Hornik and we started construction on our wall.
We got the wall fully assembled at about 9:05 a.m. then it was off to Walmart for much needed supplies — the paper for the wall and the markers for the people to exercise their right to write.
Once we got back, Shayn finished the table to display information and acquire new e-mails for our mailing list. Then, Nate Sherman, the Ohio Representative from the Leadership Institute, and I started applying the paper to the wall. Directly after that I had to run to class and soon after missed a call by Nate to take an interview so Nate stepped up and answered the reporter from WTOL 11’s questions.
When my class was over and I finished some quick YAL projects, I fast-walked back to the free speech wall. When traveling there I heard an echoing voice and feared Nate was heckling the students to write on the wall as he joked to do. This was extremely out of character for Nate but my brain gave no other explanation so I only granny-ran faster to the wall. Once I reached the feat of liberty engineering, I noticed it was not Nate but some street preachers yelling and calling people sinners.
My heart sank, but we were not dismayed. We figured it is their free speech to say whatever they want, even if it was spreading the gospel in the wrong light.
The main problem with these guys was many people thought we were somehow linked to these street preachers and because of it avoided us like a sinner his punishment. It took us some convincing and some rotation of our tables but people finally started seeing we were not with the street preachers.
Around the time people started to notice this, our wall started to pick up and it started to really look like a runaway success. Not only did a large amount of people come but we received media coverage from two local news stations WTOL and WNWO, a local paper, The Blade, and the front page of our campus newspaper. In addition to the media, local and state politicians showed up, in particular Toledo City Council candidates Bill Delaney and Joe Celusta, Toledo School board candidate Tina Henold and Ohio Gubernatorial candidate for the Libertarian Party, Charlie Earl.
The biggest event of the day was to be my speech, as the local chapter president, on the importance of the First Amendment. It went quite well. A medium-sized crowd gathered, and I think the message landed with some people.
After my speech, the real big event of the day occurred when a second group game to protest next to the street pastors. They were a group of Buddhists who came to chant and disrupt them. Earlier in the day, another movement to protest the campus street pastors began when an atheist student facetiously began to yell nearly the same thing the pastors were yelling but injecting Star Wars and only what I can assume to be Skyrim references.
Though much of this free speech was not along the lines of what I agreed with either in presentation or actual content, it was good to see such a passionate and open dialogue. I believe the many smaller protests really made the Free Speech Wall the talk of the campus. It brought drama to a rather peaceful protest and people who may not have visited the wall otherwise. So though I first looked at this other free speech as a hindrance it soon turned out to be a great asset and is what made our wall get such attention.
After all the excitement was over we all stood by and got more signatures and expanded the free speech wall till around 5:15 p.m. We then closed shop and went and held our post-event and regular meeting, where we had some excellent discussions.
At the end of the day after all was said and done it was a bit sad to tear the wall down however it was also relieving (you would know if you’ve worked a free speech wall all day). We decided to keep the paper the free speech was written on and we plan to auction it off for funds for the group or to donate it to UT. We have no set idea, but we are considering all options as of current.
Now, onward to plan for our October event and bring liberty to the campus of the University of Toledo one word at a time! To quote a great patriot UNF YAL Chapter President Eric Armetta, “balls to the wall liberty man!”
- Independent Collegian (College Paper)
- The Blade (local paper)
- WNWO: interviewed but could find no footage posted online
- WTOL 11: interviewed but could find no footage posted online