Students take action against hate speech

Trinity Bland

Student holds sign that reads Get this homophobic scum off my campus.

Trinity Bland

Student holds sign that reads “Get this homophobic scum off my campus.”

by Trinity Bland, Managing Editor

On Aug. 25, students gathered in an intense confrontation with an individual promoting hate speech on San Diego State’s campus. 

In the courtyard near Hepner Hall, the individual held up a sign with a list of various labels and titles of people considered ‘sinners’ and those who would be condemned. 

While the individual spent hours debating with many students on campus and spreading false information on various topics such as COVID-19, women’s rights, religion and LGBTQ+ rights, both the delivery and contents of his message came as an extreme and antagonizing attack directed at SDSU students. 

Undeclared freshman Rami shared the individual made fun of his Muslim faith. 

“He denounced my religion, I’m Muslim so he made fun of me and said I wasn’t true, I was going to hell, something like that,” Rami said.

Rami proceeded to share that he wanted to take action after this experience and asked his friends for help. 

“I wanted to drown him out, I had to make sure they [his friends] came down so we could just tune him out so they brought all their trombones, two trombones and a saxophone player and they just drowned him completely out,” Rami said.

Students play trombones in an attempt to drown out the words of man spewing hate speech.
Students play trombones in an attempt to drown out the words of man spewing hate speech. (Trinity Bland)

Allegedly, a number of students called campus police in hopes of getting this individual removed from campus for their own safety. Witnesses say they saw officers ride by the individual and said they couldn’t remove him since he had a right to be on campus and wasn’t perpetuating physical violence. 

Other students thought a valid reason for his removal could be the way he wasn’t wearing a mask and kept claiming to be unvaccinated, going against the university’s vaccination policy.

Despite the lack of intervention from campus police, other students wanted to make sure their voices were heard through popular protest mediums such as chanting remarks opposing what the individual was preaching and creating signs. 

Brittany, who asked to remain anonymous due to privacy reasons, RWS 100 instructor and second-year graduate student studying English, created a sign that explicitly addressed the homophobic comments the individual expressed.

“Out of anger, I made that sign which is why the verbiage on it was the way it was, so then I went up to the front and just held it in front of him and I just blocked his sign that had so many hateful things on it,” Brittany said. “I just blocked it with mine, very non-confrontational, just to diffuse the situation.”

Like Rami and Brittany, third-year math major Alec Irwin and first-year computer engineering student Chase Varga worked together to create a sign denouncing the individual’s overall message of hate.

“The perspective I’ve tried to have, trying to put myself in the shoes of a student who may belong to a group on his list, if I was a Muslim student, if I was a woman, and I walked by, would I rather see this dude standing out there and nobody doing it or this dude standing out there and it is abundantly clear that the student population doesn’t want him anywhere near us?” Irwin said. “I hope that is the response that this campus has for further hate speech, a very clear message of it not being tolerated here.”

“We wanted to show more aspects of, he isn’t just horrible because he’s homophobic, he’s also racist and sexist. We wanted to generalize it to include all the names he listed.” Varga said. 

When asked if the individual was intentionally spreading a message of hate, Irwin had no doubts that this bit was true. 

“He chose to place himself and interrupt the lives of our campus,” Irwin said. “He chose to be standing in a place that people would see him and I think his goal was to make people, and especially the people on that list, uncomfortable, and that is, in my opinion, hateful. I think he was trying to disrupt and stir that kind of hateful emotion and I think that is specifically the thing that doesn’t have a place on our campus. It’s not about having a different opinion or belief, it’s about using that in a way that makes people feel unsafe.”

More than anything, students defended one another and were able to stand up against the hate speech affecting multiple communities represented in the crowd. Varga said it helped him to understand the values SDSU students hold.

Student holds hand made sign that reads "Hate has no place on campus."
Student holds hand made sign that reads “Hate has no place on campus.” (Trinity Bland)

“More than him being there, the reaction of the students gave me the most perspective of the campus situation,” Varga said. “It was celebratory almost, the way way people played trumpets and people were chanting ‘gay sex.’ I just found that so beautiful where all the students said ‘I can make a sign, I can play music, I can celebrate gay sex, I can not have this person have any influence on me’.”

Third-year kinesiology major K.P. said it best here: “Hate and intolerance isn’t a place for SDSU.”