A gay rights activist wrecked a newly-installed “Free Speech Wall” at Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario less than a day after it was installed.
The symbolic wall was the brainchild of Ian CoKehyeng and Carleton Students for Liberty. Members of the club installed it on Monday to demonstrate the vigor of free speech on campus.
“What we wanted to promote was competition of ideas, rather than ‘if I disagree with you I’ve got to censor you,’” CoKehyeng, the club’s founder, told told the Toronto-based National Post.
So much for that.
By Tuesday morning, seventh-year student Arun Smith had demolished the wall, which was really little more than a makeshift white board equipped with colored markers in a high-visibility area on campus.
Smith called the wall an “act of violence” against the gay community, according to the Post. As for his own deed, he has hailed it as an act of “forceful resistance.”
In a thick, 594-word Facebook screed, Smith explained that he tore down the wall because it provided space “for the expression of hate.”
“We rely on buzzwords like ‘free speech’ to help us either ignore or perpetuate the gross suffering that our words and actions can cause,” he wrote. “In organizing the ‘free speech wall,’ the Students for Liberty have forgotten that liberty requires liberation.”
At the end of the tirade, Smith identified himself as a campaigner against homophobia and transphobia.
In a Twitter exchange with a reporter from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation on Tuesday afternoon, Smith described free speech as an “illusory concept.” He also proclaimed that “not every opinion is valid, nor deserving of expression,” relates the Post.
Lat year, Smith made a YouTube video advertising his candidacy in a Carleton student government election. In that video, the the LGBT activist expressed a seemingly contrary view concerning the free speech of other people in addition to himself.
“I am here so that I can make a difference in terms of creating inclusive, open spaces that are safe spaces where every voice is empowered and where every student’s voice is heard,” Smith promised last year.
Whatever Smith’s views on the rights of others, it’s not clear which speech — if any — so infuriated him during the wall’s brief existence.
According to the Post, the wall’s obvious references to sexual orientation were definitively pro-gay.
“QUEERS ARE AWESOME,” wrote one student. “Gay is OK,” asserted another.
Other comments on the wall included “Obama Murders with Drones” and “I love my clitoris!!” A series of rebuttals followed the proclamation, “Abortion is murder.”
Only one statement could be construed as anti-gay: “traditional marriage is awesome.” CoKehyeng told the Post that this radical four-word manifesto was enough to warrant a visit from Carleton’s director of student affairs.
On Tuesday, Carleton Students for Liberty were reportedly constructing a new free-speech wall. While optimistic, CoKehyeng admitted to the Post that he is resigned to the fact that it may meet the same fate as the last one.
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