University of Minnesota – October 20, 2016

Pro-Trump mural at University of Minnesota painted over with “Stop White Supremacy”

Minneapolis, MN

In October 2016, the College Republicans at the University of Minnesota (UM) painted a mural with the words “Build the Wall” during an annual event that allows students to decorate the Washington Avenue Bridge. The mural sparked intense debate and criticism on social media, and it was spray-painted over with the words “Stop White Supremacy.” The vandalism was condemned by UM President Eric Kaler and State Senator Kari Dziedzic.

Key Players

UM President Eric Kaler released a statement supporting Free Speech on UM’s campus and condemning the vandalism of the mural.

State Senator Kari Dziedzic represents District 60 in the Minnesota Senate. Dziedzic, whose district includes UM’s campus, expressed discomfort with the College Republicans’ mural, citing her status as the granddaughter of immigrants as well as her political opinion on immigration. However, she too condemned the vandalism and spoke out in support of Free Speech.

Madison Faupel, then-president of the UM College Republicans, released a statement rejecting accusations that the group is racist, xenophobic, and anti-immigrant.

Further Details

The annual “Paint the Bridge” event allows student groups to promote their respective clubs by painting murals on a bridge that connects the East and West Banks of UM’s campus. The College Republicans incorporated the words “Build the Wall” into their mural, painted on Friday, October 20, 2016. That evening, a picture of the mural was posted on the Facebook page of NAVIGATE MN, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit organization that works to support undocumented students. In the Facebook post, the group wrote that the painting “echoes the anti-Mexican, anti-immigrant racist rhetoric” of then-presidential candidate Donald Trump, reported the MinnPost. The next day, more than 150 immigration activists came to the bridge to protest the mural. After the mural was finished, it was graffitied multiple times, most notably with the words “Stop White Supremacy” in gold paint, reported the Star Tribune.

College Republicans President Madison Faupel defended the original artwork and the people responsible for creating it, saying, “We have received comments on the painting, falsely accusing us of being racist, xenophobic and anti-immigrant. Our party’s nominee supports building a wall on the Mexican border to stop the flow of illegal immigrants into this country. We understand that some students may disagree with this policy position. However, free speech is at the center of a functioning democracy, and the action taken against our panels runs contrary to free speech.”

The vandalism of the mural prompted State Senator Kari Dziedzic to comment on the controversy. “I don’t like vandalism. They have their free speech, and we have our free speech. But I think we can reach out and we can be louder,” she said. “As the granddaughter of Polish and Irish immigrants, I think we need to be building bridges … not walls. That’s kind of what America is. This is where people have opportunities. We don’t care what your background is, and we don’t care where you came from. We all came from someplace else.”

UM President Eric Kaler also released a statement concerning the mural to students and faculty members. It read, “The University of Minnesota supports a campus climate that welcomes all members of our community and our values of equity and diversity, but that also ensures the free flow of ideas, even those that are offensive to some,” reported the MinnPost. Kaler’s statement continued, “People in our community may disagree with the sentiment expressed. However, while the University values free speech, the subsequent vandalism of the panel is not the way to advance a conversation.”

Outcome

Free Speech supported by the administration and vandalism condemned

Though immigration activists protested the College Republicans’ mural the day after it was painted, UM’s president sent a statement to students and faculty members in support of the group’s right to Free Speech. He also condemned the vandalism of the mural.

External References

‘Build the Wall’ mural at University of Minnesota sparks protest, MinnPost

Vandalism of pro-Trump mural offers free-speech lesson at University of Minnesota, StarTribune

Protesters object to ‘Build the Wall’ mural on Washington Avenue Bridge, call it xenophobic, Minnesota Daily

Prepared by Bridget McElroy ‘18

Uploaded April 10, 2018