Tuesday afternoon on the Diag, a man wrote both President-elect Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign slogans in chalk with the aim of sending a message about oppression people face for expressing political viewpoints in the current climate.
The man, Victor Sedlak, who stated he was a former student at Michigan State University, said he first wrote Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again,” and then Clinton’s campaign slogan, “Stronger Together,” on the Diag to gauge how people would react and illustrate how students of minority political views can face discrimination.
“People harassed me,” Sedlak said. “The general message is you can be conservative with liberals and no one is probably going to hurt you, and you can be liberal with conservatives and no one is probably going to hurt you. They won’t hurt you, but they will sure as shit discriminate against you.”
On Sunday night, hundreds of University of Michigan community members signed a petition condemning recent protests and vigils held on campus, as well as statements made by University administrators, over the election of Donald Trump for president. Over 300 signed the petition as of Sunday night, showing solidarity with an open #NotMyCampus letter to administrators written by LSA sophomore Amanda Delekta.
Last Wednesday, a vigil and anti-Trump rally attracted a crowd of nearly 1,000 University students, faculty and staff, as well as community members, in protest of President-elect Donald Trump's win.
About 30 students gathered as Sedlak was writing “Make America Great Again,” and some poured water on each letter in response after he wrote it. Minutes later, when Sedlak began writing “Stronger Together,” students continued to pour water over the message.
LSA senior Sean Smith arrived on the scene after one of his friends notified him that someone was chalking the Diag with Trump’s campaign slogan, and said he came to wash it off.
“Somebody told me we had a (Trump) supporter writing “Make America Great Again” in the middle of the Diag,” Smith said. “We just came in here to get this off the Diag.”
Smith said he didn’t take issue with Sedlak trying to express his political views, but was bothered that Sedlak was writing “Make America Great Again,” a message that he said he believes represents exclusion of minorities, racism and fascism.
“It’s not necessarily the fact that he was expressing his political beliefs, it’s more so the implications behind that statement and what it’s emblematic of — I think that’s what people had a problem with,” Smith said. “I personally had a problem with him putting “Make America Great Again” in the Diag, because who does that then exclude from that narrative?”
Smith said he was not impressed with any broader message Sedlak was trying to spread, especially after witnessing Sedlak take off his red “Make America Great Again” hat and put on a hat bearing Clinton’s campaign logo.
“He’s basically trying to be a troll,” Smith said. “He thinks he’s the Riddler or something like that. He’s trying to cover up what he’s doing by playing both sides, but it’s not working — that’s what I’m gathering from it.”
When asked if Sedlak could be initiating a dialogue, Smith said he didn't think so.
“He’s not inciting conversation,” he said.
Police briefly arrived at the scene to monitor the situation from afar, but declined to comment on the situation, saying there was nothing illegal happening.
An LSA student who gave only his first name, Robby, said he was also confused as to what the message was, but recognized Sedlak had a right to free speech.
“This guy is either a jokester — I’m not quite sure what he is — but he was exercising his right to free speech,” Robby said. “Everyone got triggered over nothing.”
Sedlak said the whole incident was also part of a marketing ploy for his website on American politics.
“It was an elaborate marketing ploy and it worked brilliantly,” Sedlak said.