Pro-Donald Trump messages scrawled in chalk across the Emory University campus in Atlanta this week sparked protests, inspired a collegewide email from the school administrators and landed a student on Bill O’Reilly’s conservative talk show. But by Thursday, backlash had started brewing against the backlash.
It all began Monday, when the vandalism supporting the Republican front-runner appeared on campus stairs and handrails and instantly upset students, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. The chalk graffiti, which in most places read "vote Trump" and "Trump 2016," led to a 50-person protest over the candidate's divisive rhetoric and controversial proposals. The group then met with university President James Wagner, who sent a campus-wide email acknowledging students' freedom of speech but expressing his concern.
"I cannot dismiss their expression of feelings and concern as motivated only by political preference or oversensitivity. Instead, the students with whom I spoke heard a message, not about political process or candidate choice, but instead about values regarding diversity and respect that clash with Emory’s own," Wagner said, adding that he planned to find the vandals and provide opportunities to discuss social justice.
The story snowballed from there. The Washington Post reported the Emory Latino Student Organization condemned the act on its Facebook page, writing that "while some students only see the name of a potential nominee, others see hostility and venom which promises to destroy lives." Students anonymously told the Emory Wheel they felt afraid and frustrated.
“I legitimately feared for my life,” freshman Paula Camila Alarcon told the Daily Beast.
But some critics have started to say said they disagree with the demonstration — and Wagner's decision to respond. National media outlets joined campus organizations in debating the merits of free speech.
"Now college kids collapse at the mention of the word ‘Trump,’" read the headline of a New York Post editorial. "Yes, intolerance is running amok on campus — thanks to the scholarly goons who claim to oppose it."
— Kmarko (@Kmarkobarstool) March 22, 2016
As of Thursday morning, Trump had 739 of the 1,237 delegates needed to secure the Republican nomination.