Ah, freedom of speech; a double-edged sword often used as a defense to spread messages of hate and discrimination on and offline. So when two men decided to stand in protest, one wearing a shirt that read "This is what a patriarch looks like" and toting a sign that read "Homo sex is a sin," it is, however upsetting, perfectly legal — as was the awesome reaction of University of California Irvine students, who proceeded to respond to the homophobic protest with a dance party.
Freedom of speech on college campuses is an ongoing and difficult conversation in the U.S. This country is no stranger to the debate about what constitutes as free speech and what qualifies as hate speech, and students are often speaking out about how this free speech can add to a toxic learning environment rather than "healthy discourse." A recent example is violent protest at UC Berkeley as a response to scheduling conservative speakers, which led to possible racial profiling of students connected with protests. Clearly, the issue isn't just specific to certain campuses, nor is it just about being able to just say what you want; it's also how to respond.
A Gallup poll survey last year stated that 31 percent of students said they "frequently or occasionally hear someone at their college making disrespectful, inappropriate or offensive comments about someone's race, ethnicity or religion." Another Gallup survey this year also stated that black non-hispanic college students are less confident about the freedom to assemble or protest being a secure right. So what happens when students want to respond to these comments or insensitive gestures at universities?
The students at UC Irvine had an unconventional but nonetheless effective method — they danced!
Aina Folake posted a video on Twitter of a dance party-style response:
Some idiots came to UCI with a big sign saying "Homo sex is a sin" spreading false extremist messages and this is how UCI dealt with him 💯 pic.twitter.com/bJGyOHaugG— folake aina (@f0lake) May 16, 2017
Folake also shared a few thoughts of her own about the exchange. And apparently, the protesters on their campus could've easily provoked other reactions that aren't so peaceful.
MIND YOU THE BACK OF THIS MAN'S SHIRT READ "WOMEN BELONG IN THE KITCHEN"— folake aina (@f0lake) May 16, 2017
They were basically saying things like "muslims are rapists" "homos belong in hell" "a woman is a whore if she isnt a virgin"— folake aina (@f0lake) May 16, 2017
So not only did the protester spew hateful speech, but allegedly plotted to bait violent reactions.
The whole point was to piss people off so hopefully they'd get hit and sue the school. It was tragic to witness— folake aina (@f0lake) May 16, 2017
And the motivation for this random act? The protester also cited his religious beliefs.
Their justification for all of this was they were "doing the work of the lord" literally everything he said he blamed it on jesus— folake aina (@f0lake) May 16, 2017
Wait, it also gets weirder.
He also referred to himself multiple times as Jesus Christ.— folake aina (@f0lake) May 16, 2017
The thread goes on, citing more and more weirdness. It's worth noting that this is not the first time protesters have stood on college campuses potentially hoping to incite violence from students to provoke legal action; there are documented cases of people shouting extreme and hateful things like this in many other campuses as well. But as the nation continues to grapple with political tensions, UC Irvine just reintroduced everyone to a form of activism seen outside of Mike Pence's home after inauguration: sometimes you just have to turn up the music and shake off the oppression.