Early yesterday morning, a group of students gathered at North Carolina State University’s free expression tunnel to protest against hate speech. The tunnel, which is free for students to paint with messages of their choice, had reportedly been painted with a caricature of President Obama and homophobic and racial slurs. In response, a group of students blocked all access and painted the tunnel black in protest. They’ve asked for penalties for anyone who writes "hate speech" in the tunnel, and greater surveillance of the tunnel in order to identify perpetrators.
By the time FIRE got there, the protesters had left. We did run into one student who was painting the tunnel to promote a campus event. While FIRE asked several students to comment on what they thought of the controversy itself, none were willing to do so on camera. Check out the footage we captured in the video below.
The tunnel has been open to NC State students to paint with messages of their choice since the 1960s. In recent years, however, the pedestrian tunnel connecting North and Central campus has been a lightning rod for First Amendment controversy. For example, I wrote about a similar controversy in 2008, and Adam covered yet another in 2007.