On Wednesday, April 12, the UCR branch of Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) held a protest, while they were tabling at the Bell Tower from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m., against the restraining of the free speech of students at UCR.
According to the President of YAL and fourth-year applied math and economics major Joseph Gomez, UCR is limiting the free speech of its students. “As it stands right now,” he explained, “it (UCR) has this policy where we have to notify the school if it is reasonable to suspect that more than 25 people are going to be here at a protest which is completely unconstitutional.” Gomez later added that protests and demonstrations are limited to being held at the Bell Tower.
To clarify the specific goals of the protest, we asked the participants if this protest was about free speech as a whole on UC campuses, citing the cancellation of former Breitbart Editor Milo Yiannopoulos’ speech at UC Berkley due to protests as an example. The Director of Data for YAL, fourth-year business administration major with a concentration on finance Roman D’Yachenko, replied, “On a larger scale I think we are. But we are not targeting it specifically right now, but we are here for free speech and events like that are disheartening because people, no matter what their beliefs, should be allowed to speak.”
The small group of protesters held signs that called into question UCR’s support for free speech. One sign asked those walking by, “Think UCR gives you constitutional free speech?”
YAL has not yet made contact with the UCR administration about their grievances with these policies. “As far as I know we haven’t had the chance to speak directly to them,” Gomez explained. “I think that the biggest reason is because they won’t hear us out,” Gomez continued.
Freedom of speech on university campuses has been an ongoing issue with uneven interpretations of its meaning. However, recently, there has been a surge in student activism. D’Yachenko argued, “It was only recently that people have really gone down the bandwagon of ‘If this offends me, it must be wrong. Let’s take it away.’ Now this (the protest) is kind of the counter to this and only now are we seeing people mobilizing and people aren’t as afraid to speak out against this.”
Fourth-year political science and law and society major Arturo Gomez retorted, “I personally don’t feel like the university has been restrictive at all with respect to people gathering or people protesting a certain issue or promoting a certain issue.” Gomez also later commented on the protests that took place at UC Berkeley, “I agree that free speech shouldn’t be violated, but if someone does say and make incendiary comments or anything that may target a certain community, they have the right to say it but they are not exempt from critique or mass protest.”
In the afternoon, members of YAL brought out a large inflatable beach ball that they call the “Freedom Ball.” The purpose of the ball, they explained, is to allow students to write anything that they want in order to promote the YAL’s message of freedom of speech. Some of the comments written on the ball included phrases in Arabic and political statements. They had the “Freedom Ball” with them until they packed up at 2 p.m.