Reporting Esme Murphy
DULUTH, Minn. (WCCO) — A YouTube video of a confrontation between an African American student activist and a conservative group on the UMD campus has gotten more than 80,000 views in the past week. It’s now prompting a debate on free speech and what should and should not be allowed on college campuses.
The video was posted by Youth for Western Civilization, a group with chapters on nine college campuses that opposes multi-culturalism and affirmative action. The youth group said the video shows them threatened, not only by the African American student, but also by UMD staff.
The incident captured by a video camera was shot by the conservative youth group and edited. The group posted the video under the heading “Black Panther threatens Conservative for passing out free Pocket constitutions.”
In it, a UMD student approaches the campussite where Youth for Western Civilization is passing out literature. On the tape you can hear an exchange between two students.
“If you threaten the multi-cultural center you will shoot me,” said one person.
“I didn’t say that,” said the other person.
Officials with the Youth for Western Civilization did not return our email inquires for interviews. Its website features positions against affirmative action and said that Western Civilization is under assault from the radical left.
In the video, a woman who is an administrator for UMD goes over to look at the group’s literature. The administrator can be heard asking on the tape, “Is this a white supremacist group?”
A young man responds, “Absolutely not.”
The administrator responds, “Well it looks like one.”
UMD issued a statement saying the administrators comment was based on the literature she saw on the table. Professor David Schultz, a constitutional expert at Hamline University, said while private universities can limit speech, the constitution protects almost all speech at universities, including everything that appears in the video.
“You have individuals who are out leafleting who are distributing the U.S. Constitution who support one group, and you have another group that is criticizing them in terms of their leafleting. It’s perfectly legitimate and there is absolutely nothing the university could have done,” Schulz said.
Paul Clearly, the young man who made the video, said he felt threatened by the exchange and said UMD did not protect him. Officials with UMD issued a statement saying Freedom of speech on campusis a fundamental tenet of the University of Minnesota.
The other young man in the video did not return our email request for an interview.