Update on the Clemson University story:
Jaren Stewart avoided removal from Clemson's student government today after a trial held on November 7th, 2017 found him innocent. Clemson's student senate voted 42-16, with six abstaining votes. The majority did not vote for his removal. After debating all of Monday night and into Tuesday he was found to not have committed behavior warranting removal from his VP position.
His removal was called for after complaints filed about him being a RA, and the school claims the call for removal still had nothing to do with race or his protesting the pledge of allegiance.
Ultimately Stewart was not voted off the board and will remain as the school's VP.
Circa Campus started a conversation about the questions surrounding freedom of speech in America.
We sat down with a group of grad students from Pace University in New York city to get their take on everything from the NFL to the KKK.
On August 11, several reports came in regarding a violent KKK rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. The KKK are a white nationalist group. Members identify themselves as being of the one true race, and the KKK has had a resurgence since President Trump's election.
In August, they -- along with other white nationalist groups including the American Nazi party -- held a march to <u>“Unite the Right.”</u> The rally started at night, with the white supremacists marching with Walmart tiki-torches and chanting obscenities. The following day, counterprotesters arrived and tensions rose so high that <u>one woman was killed</u> and at least 15 other people were injured when a car plowed through protesters.
The events in Charlottesville came after NFL player Colin Kaepernick started a protest movement. He began kneeling for the national anthem at the beginning of his football games, as his way of supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and protesting racial injustice in the U.S. Many other players have joined Kapernick's protest, but the backlash against his actions has also been tremendous, with people going so far as to calling for him to be banned from the NFL. There has even been talk about how being unpatriotic <u>should be punished</u>.
On the other side of the spectrum, another figure whose actions have sparked backlash is <u>Richard Spencer.</u> Spencer has become known for his white supremacist rallies. He went to the University of Florida in October with the goal of giving a speech, but was met with counter protests of people saying “<u>go home racist.”</u>
Finally, at <u>Clemson University,</u> Jaren Stewart was voted off of the school senate board after he followed Kaepernick's example and did not not stand for the Pledge of Allegiance. Stewart was voted off the board by the student council i<u>n a 40-18 </u>secret ballot vote. This is not the first time Clemson has faced racism accusations. <u>The board of trustees</u> also refused to rename a building that was named after a white supremacist Benjamin Tillman, who supported the murder of a black senator in the 1800s. Stewart believes the vote for his removal shows the <u>bigotry </u>that is ever-present within the roots of Clemson University. However the rest of the student government says that the reason they are voting to impeach Stewart has nothing to do with his race, but with some complaints against him as an RA. Clemson is a predominantly white school, with only seven percent of students being African-American.
All the examples above can be classified as "protesting." But what is within an American citizen's rights? Do they lawfully have to be patriotic?
Members of the Black Lives Matter movement were heavily criticized for being violent. Taking a knee during the national anthem seems like a peaceful idea of getting a message across, but that action still generates backlash.
Protests are successful if they create a conversation about the issue. Both the Black Lives Matter and white supremacist rallies have gotten people talking about what freedom of speech truly means. Boundaries and the definitions of what constitutes a protest and what constitutes hate speech need to be re-evaluated to allow for the peaceful movements needed to enact change.