UC Riverside student Matthew Vitale is pressing charges against one of his peers, Edith Macias, for allegedly stealing his “Make America Great Again” hat off of his head.
A video of Vitale’s exchange with Macias went viral on Facebook, racking up over 2 million views in the first few days after it was posted. On October 2, Vitale claimed that Facebook removed his viral video.
The alleged thief, Ethnic Studies major Edith Macias, accused Vitale of endorsing “genocide” by wearing the hat. “So this guy thought it would be a good idea to go into a conference wearing this f***ing hat,” Macias says in the video. “Look at the kind of sh*t he’s wearing, You know what this represents? This represents genocide—genocide of a bunch of people.”
Now, Vitale is pressing charges. After campus police informed Vitale that Macias’ allegedly stealing his hat would constitute a felony theft charge because she took it off of his head, he decided to take a stand.
“I do want to send a message,” Vitale explained. “I am not vindictive, I am not vengeful, but people especially in my generation need to realize you can’t do things like this because you don’t like what someone is saying or wearing.”
Vitale, who stated in the video he is half-Nicaraguan, rejects Macias’ claims that wearing the hat amounts to a form of hate speech.
“Free speech is under attack on campus,” Vitale argued. “As cliche as it sounds, the facts of our laws and our Constitution … don’t care about what you feel. For millennials everywhere who believe their feelings give them the right to step on the rights of others — you are sadly misguided. That is not the real world.”
In response to Vitale’s video going viral, the university released a statement reaffirming their commitment to free speech. “Coequal to our dedication to mutual respect is our commitment to free speech and the free exchange of ideas,” the message read. “A university requires an environment where students and scholars can freely express ideas and pursue knowledge, while also promoting respectful dialogue among individuals or groups with opposing viewpoints.”