An official at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County told conservative activists that he would call the police and report them for “trespassing” if they did not “pack up” and leave the public university grounds. The incident was preceded by a bizarre moment in which a woman thought to be a university staff member approached the activists to argue that “freedom of speech” is a “government-given” right, rather than a God-given right.
Conservative activists recruiting members for a Turning Point USA (TPUSA) student group at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County were told by a school official to leave, claiming that the university had not “approved” them for exercising their First Amendment rights on the public property, according to a report by Campus Reform.
The incident was caught on video, and was preceded by a separate moment, also caught on camera, which showed a woman thought to be a university employee by the activists approaching them to debate on the topic of free speech, and bizarrely suggesting that it is hypocritical for someone to support both First Amendment rights and a limited government.
“How can you have freedom of speech when you limit the government?” asked the woman.
“It’s a First Amendment right, to freedom of speech,” replied Joshua Fox, one of the conservative activists.
“Right, which is governmental, correct?” argued the woman. “That’s government-enforced.”
“It’s a God-given right that we’re all born with,” said Fox.
“Wait a minute, is it God-given, or is it government-given?” asked the woman, rhetorically, moments before demanding not to be filmed.
The claim that the woman appeared to be making is one echoed by many on the left, and is typically used as an attempt to undermine the Second Amendment.
The claim, for example, that the right to defend one’s own life is a right granted to you by man, and therefore can be taken away because the Second Amendment is found in the U.S. Constitution — a political document written by men. The U.S. Bill of Rights does not actually grant man rights, but instead, recognizes that certain unalienable rights already exist and always have — pre-ratification of the U.S. Bill of Rights — and therefore dictates that government is to be limited, and shall not infringe on the natural rights bestowed upon on every person, by God.
TPUSA representative Olivia Talley and Leadership Institute representative Joshua Fox had been recruiting TPUSA student members when the woman approached them, but soon after had their recruitment efforts shut down when a school official approached Fox and Talley to tell them that they were not in a “designated” area on the public campus grounds.
“This is not an approved tabling location, you guys can’t just come and set up,” said the official.
“I mean, it’s a public campus,” noted Talley.
“This is not an approved space for tabling,” the official insisted. “We have a tabling process for vendors, so you have to follow that process.”
“So, what would happen if we didn’t pack up?” asked Fox.
“I’d probably have to call the campus police to have you guys removed,” said the official, who reiterated that the school has not “approved” the specific location for the exercising of First Amendment rights.
“So, what would we be removed for?” asked Fox.
“Trespassing,” affirmed the campus official.
Instances such as these are not isolated to one, or even a few campuses, but are a reality for students and activists across the country.
Last week, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) filed a lawsuit against Jones County Junior College in Mississippi after the school threatened conservative students with arrest by calling the police on them for not seeking the college’s permission before exercising their First Amendment rights on public property.
That same week, a University of Wisconsin-River Falls official told a conservative student that the police would be called on her for similar reasons. Meanwhile, in New Hampshire, conservative activists were being told by a Keene State College official that they, too, needed permission from the school in order to exercise their free speech rights on the public grounds.
Earlier this year, police were called on students at Georgia Southern University, because they did not “fill out paperwork” asking for permission to exercise their First Amendment rights at the publicly-funded campus.