Debate on Trump and Vandalism at U of Minnesota

October 3, 2016

The University of Minnesota has an annual tradition in which student groups may sign up to paint internal panels on a pedestrian bridge. This year, the Republican student group at Minnesota signed up for one of the panels and painted messages (at right) supporting the candidacy of Donald Trump for president, and featuring his proposal to build a wall on the border with Mexico.

Groups representing immigrants organized a protest against the panel, and they accused the Republican group of spreading hateful ideas about people who are immigrants.

The debate intensified when someone vandalized the Republicans' panel, writing "Stop White Supremacy" over the painting.

That prompted Eric Kaler, president of the university, to issue a statement that noted the hurt caused by the message but said that vandalism is not an appropriate response to a message protected by free speech. "While this is protected as free, political speech, we have heard from members of our community who find the phrase hurtful, offensive, anti-immigrant and anti-Latinx," Kaler said of the Republican message. "People in our community may disagree with the sentiment expressed. However, while the university values free speech, the subsequent vandalism of the panel is not the way to advance a conversation."

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