Young Americans For Liberty Organize ‘Free Speech Wall’ for students

“The best way to counter what you think is bad speech is with more good speech,” said YAL President Ian Paris

Young Americans for Liberty drew students to a Free Speech Wall to celebrate First Amendment rights Nov. 11.

The Free Speech Wall was placed in the heart of Lowry Mall to encourage students to freely voice their opinions and concerns. The wall, a compilation of white poster boards shielded by an overhead tent, was assembled the morning of the event, and remained open to the public until the event’s conclusion at 3 p.m.

“Given the climate here on campus, we thought this was a really crucial time to have the (Free Speech Wall),” YAL member Victoria Stroup said.

The organization aimed to eliminate censorship for all students, regardless of whether or not their beliefs correlated with popular opinion, and to provide a safe space where students could exercise one of their First Amendment rights.

Students scribbled a multitude of quotes from historic leaders and philosophers, motivational slogans, individual opinions, words of encouragement and numerous political interpretations across both sides of the wall.

The messages ranged from phrases such as, “Be overly kind” and “Love and acceptance, that is all,” to “All lives do matter, but all lives are not being threatened” and “Freedom shouldn’t end where someone’s feelings begin.”

The writing on the wall covered numerous topics. However, commentary and opinions regarding Professor Melissa Click’s behavior toward media and Concerned Student 1950 consumed a large portion of the wall.

YAL members expressed their concern while on Lowry Mall toward the events that transpired earlier last week that they feel have put “free speech under attack constantly by the administration.”

“Free speech is obviously a huge part of the college campus and even though we may not agree with everything written on this board, it’s not necessarily our responsibility, or our right to censor it,” Stroup said.

YAL member Alex Witoslawski wore a flag draped around his neck that read, “Don’t tread on me.” YAL President Ian Paris spoke to several students and encouraged their participation.

“It’s very important to voice every side of any argument,” sophomore Clayton Ross said. “So this is showing people that there is more than one voice being spoken here.”

The event attracted a large number of students from a variety of backgrounds. Many stopped by to participate; some even stayed to discuss the purpose of the wall with the organization’s members.

“The best way to counter what you think is bad speech is with more good speech,” Paris said. “People need to hear these things so that they can grow.”

Paris said the wall has been in the works for some time now, but it came into fruition last week due to the administrations backlash against dissenting opinions, along with MU’s implementation of what he referred to as the “speech police,” those who limit free speech.

“Everybody has the right to express themselves, and that doesn’t mean that you have the right to be free from criticism,” Paris said. “If somebody writes something that you disagree with, rather than trying to scribble it out, rather than trying to silence those people that you disagree with, it’s important that you express yourself.”

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