Twenty-six years after the Berlin Wall fell in Germany, the first blows were delivered to the make-shift wall on the Diag constructed by the University’s Young Americans for Freedom chapter. The wall, created to honor the anniversary of the real wall’s destruction, was built to protest political correctness, according to YAF chairman Grant Strobl, an LSA sophomore.
“Right now the bias hotline is against free speech,” Strobl said. “You can report a bias crime just because it’s offensive. That’s not in the constitution.”
Strobl is referring to the University’s telephone hotline and online forms available for directly reporting hate crimes on campus.
Members of the organization passed around a mallet, each taking a turn to smash the wall, which was covered with words like “safe space” and “trigger warnings.”
However, the display was not perceived well by many of those who passed by, including LSA freshman Kevin Sweitzer.
“It ignores all the progress we’ve made on promoting political correctness, and social justice across the University,” Sweitzer said. “It just puts it on some wall for some people who are privileged to take turns beating at. It’s unbelievable. This is a bias incident, and it needs to stop.”
For many of the students who stopped to watch the display, confusion centered around what YAF was aiming to accomplish. Additional oppositions were voiced, particularly by one student, LSA sophomore Fahim Rahman.
“It’s ridiculous,” Rahman said. “Protesting against political correctness … I’m of course not for that, but I (also) think it’s really weird to equate that that to the Berlin Wall. It doesn’t make any sense.”
Passersby spoke with YAF members about the purpose of the display. The wall had words like “protect left handed people” and “report me” spray painted in a graffiti-like fashion.
“We chose words that were all part of this politically correct effort, to replicate an environment where people are coerced into silence from expressing their beliefs,” Strobl said.
Students said they felt some groups were marginalized by the words written on the wall.
“I believe that people’s identities are being challenged based on the words on the wall,” Sweitzer said. “People who have suffered traumatic experience — you need to be aware of that when watching a movie in class, or just going through life.”
The aim of the day, according to Strobl, was to draw connections between instances of institutionalized censorship.
“It is our mission to fight for freedom of speech, intellectual discussion and dialogue and the opportunity to engage in this dialogue as a University,” Strobl said. “If we didn’t have this event today, I wouldn’t have had tons of discussions about this today.”