Cops tell activists their ‘free speech ball’ ‘scared’ students
A video obtained by Campus Reform shows conservative activists at Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville being told by police officers that their “free-speech ball” was “scaring” students.
The activists, a collective of First Amendment advocates from Turning Point USA, Young Americans for Liberty, and the Leadership Institute, employed a popular tactic of rolling a so-called “free-speech ball” around campus, allowing interested students to scribe messages of their choice on the object.
However, they were eventually stopped by campus police, who informed them that the school had received multiple complaints about the free-speech ball and even insisted that the activists were not operating in a public space.
“This is not considered like a public place. Right now, we’re going to have to put the ball away,” one officer explained, adding that “it’s freaking a lot of people out.”
One of the activists responded by asking which specific policy prohibited their activity, asserting that they were simply utilizing their free-speech rights “on a public place.”
“Well I don’t think it’s considered a public place,” the officer replied again, though conceded that the state does own the university.
The officer went on to note that students are required to “sign up” in order to “be able to demonstrate,” revealing that “students are calling in because they’re scared.”
“It’s the ball that’s creating…people are scared of the beach ball?” one unidentified bystander asked in disbelief.
“Yeah,” the officer replied, with his colleague again reiterating that “people are reporting that they’re scared of the beach ball, and what’s going on here.”
“What could be scary about the beach ball?” the bystander again questioned, to which the officer resignedly explained that he “can’t interpret other people’s feelings.”
“I’m not going to try to infringe on your Constitutional rights, but at the same time everybody else around here has rights also,” the officer went on. “And they have a right to go to and from class, and not feel intimidated by what you're representing or your ball.”
Ultimately, both parties reached an agreement to allow the free-speech ball to remain so long as it was kept in the grass and off of university sidewalks, with Executive Director of University Marketing and Communications Doug McIlhagga telling Campus Reform that the activists were in violation of the university’s policy “governing freedom of expression and demonstration activities.”
“The demonstrators didn’t follow the proper University procedure for a public forum by going through the Vice Chancellor of Administration’s Office for approval,” he elaborated. “We normally get the ‘Request For Use Of The Designated Public Forum’ form. However in this particular instance, we did not.”
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