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UPD censors political chalk ‘graffiti,’ regularly allows chalk ads for parties

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By Kevin Mercado
Contributing Writer
opinions.asp@gmail.com

On a cold night at the University
my fellow students Amanda
Jesser and Julianne Ersfeld and I
were caught practicing a heinous
crime: drawing on the ground
with chalk.
Now, as trivial as that seems,
in the midst of our frigid midnight
efforts University Security,
claiming there had been an abundance
of vandalism on campus
lately, stopped us. Although we
assured him we were not responsible
for any vandalism or any
malicious chalking, he still found
it necessary to hold us in our
outdoor location while we waited
for University Police to arrive
and interrogate us. When UPD
arrived after about 15 minutes of
awkward conversation, they took
our information down and it was
an overall uncomfortable experience
for us all.
I know what you may be
thinking: how can someone get
arrested for playing with chalk.
Well, at this point other groups
had used this chalking method
for promotion for upcoming
events such as some sort of
Neon themed party and what
we believed to be a bingo night
but was actually Electronic
Dance Music (EDM) artists by
the name of Bingo Players. And
no, we weren’t going to get arrested
for a bingo night promotional
failure. We had a much
bigger cause.
We wanted peace.
Jesser and I are founding
members of a new group on campus
known as Peace Action with
Ersfeld as our President. During
this time Peace Action was gearing
up for one of its first events,
a Gun Violence Awareness rally
in association with the College
Democrats featuring several politicians
from throughout the State.
For promotional value, like other
groups on campus, we decided
to have a demonstration using
chalk. Now this demonstration
was halted by campus security
and UPD. But, our message had
some real worth.
Our demonstration featured
chalk body outlines and haunting
facts and statistics about people
of all ages-young and old who
were killed by domestic gun
misuse. This is something that
needs to be addressed on campus
as a national issue.
I guess because we are opening
the eyes of students and faculty
alike to real issues and not promoting
some party, our promotion
must get washed away.
Because we definitely should
be arrested for informing students
of the negative effects of
owning a gun without properly
securing it or how easily one can
be obtained without even having
to undergo a background check.
We just have to have our rights to
free speech and free assembly be
halted because we’re “defacing
school property” by using condensed
dust particles of varying
pastel colors. School property,
which the fellow student body
is paying for through our tax
money and tuition, not to mention,
is public property.
It hardly seems fair that our
freedom to send a message effectively
can so easily be washed
away due to “restrictions.” The
security officer, for example, told
us we needed special permission
to draw on the ground. This
statement had our president,
Ersfeld, question why we needed
special permission to use dust on
the floor that easily washes away
through a natural rainstorm. We
just wanted to put the word out
there, which we are constitutionally
entitled to. I guess on this
campus, constitutional freedoms
come at a limit. We can express
whatever we want, as long as we
have special permission to do so
first, of course.
The chalk body outlines were
also deemed “threatening.” I get
it, I mean they’re chalk body
outlines. But given the fact that
a) people saw us making them,
alive and well and b) they have
statistics surrounding them,
perhaps it’s obvious that they
aren’t real. We aimed for shock
value; after doing the outlines for
two days, with no one actually
being threatened or harmed, we
deemed it pretty obvious that no
one was going on a murder spree
around campus.
These served as a type of
memorial of sorts, for people
to remember and honor these
innocent deaths and increase
their concern for these types of
incidents. Not only did Peace
Action perceive their erasing as
an infringement on our right to
freedom of speech but also disrespectful
to just “erase” away the
names of the victims who should
live on. UPD’s and campus security’s
main concern should not be
centered on students playing with
non-threatening chalk.
They should be concerned with
going out and finding those people
that we are constantly getting
emails about. Those people, who
are coming onto our campus,
whether they be armed or come
to abduct people, are real threats
to students. Even a UPD officer
that Jesser and I spoke to thought
a complaint about chalk wasn’t
that serious. He simply explained
that he got the call and he acted
on it.
My only confusion now is just
what exactly constitutes as a
crime on this campus. Legally,
chalk isn’t a media used for
graffiti. Constitutionally, students,
and people on the greater
spectrum are allowed to freely
express themselves. And yet, we
got stopped. I suppose this campus
runs on a different operating
system.
Nevertheless Peace Action will
continue to extend the knowledge
of peoples’ rights to the
students to ensure that we are
not silenced again and will be
continuing efforts looking into
our rights as students.
After all, they can’t take away
our basic human rights.

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