As our very first event, YAL @ El Camino College (ECC) presented a free speech wall on campus, Nov. 6, 2012. The event’s purpose was to teach students about the U.S. Constitution by creating an avenue in which they could exercise their First Amendment rights.
Students were provided markers in which they could write whatever they wanted; however, despite setting up on the campus’ free speech zone, certain language was still restricted due to ECC’s policy. ECC’s policy on ‘obscene expression’ was written on a chalk board and displayed near the wall to caution students about the risk in not complying. Displaying the ECC policy served as a reminder on how often free speech is restricted, as well as on the importance of protecting free speech: to retain the right to say something unpopular and/or controversial, rather than to shelter us from boogeyman words.
Students were excited about expressing themselves. Not only were there light-hearted thoughts, but also very thought-provoking messages. In relation to the purpose of the event, one student wrote, “Fuck your notion that certain words are inherently evil.”
And because our event was held on election day, there were also many notes by students encouraging others to vote for their candidate: Obama, Romney, Johnson, and write-in Ron Paul. “Obamney 2012” and “Obama/Romney: Same anus, different poo” were written in response to the Obama and Romney supporters. Issues that concerned students such as debt, NDAA, and the Federal Reserve were expressed on the wall which spurred discussion by the similarly concerned and the curious.
The assembly of the wall took approximately 45 minutes. It was built out of two large styrofoam boards ($14 each at the hardware store). We connected the boards by duct-taping only the backsides together. By taping only the backside, the wall could then be folded and easily transported and set up. The styrofoam came with a thin sheet of aluminum attached to one side’s surface. We applied gray spray paint (to give a stone wall effect) to the aluminum side; otherwise, the paint would’ve eaten through the foam.
After applying the gray spray paint, we used red, blue, and black spray paint to write: “Free Speech Wall,” “End the Fed,” and an anti-NDAA sign. After testing a few different types of markers, the only kind that worked over the aluminum-paint surface were the Sharpie brand ‘brush-tip’, which is what we provided at the event. To display the wall, we set it again a a lamp post in a busy part of campus. We secured it by placing the US flag on one end, and the Gadsden flag on the other.
The World’s Smallest Political Quiz, provided by the Advocates for Self-Government (thank you!), was a great tool in helping students find their position on the political ideology spectrum. A majority of students who took the quiz who thought they were either on the left or right, were surprised to learn they actually held libertarian views — a fun and fascinating experience!
Overall, the purpose of the event was successfully executed and 22 people signed up to our mailing list. Many described the wall as a large art piece and agreed that the college should display it as a personification of the students. Even after dismantling the wall, students still came up to sign it. This was a positive reaction and we hope to do more interactive events that will excite students about the rights outlined in the Constitution!