University of New Mexico student group Young Americans for Liberty held a free speech event on Wednesday, Sept. 27 on the University’s Main Campus.
Several members of the group rolled a roughly 5-foot wide beach ball across the north side of campus, inviting anyone walking by to sign the ball and support free speech.
“Free speech to me is being able to say whatever you want to say but in your own limits,” said Jess Ceron, UNM junior and YAL state chair. “A lot of people get that confused with, ‘Oh, I can say whatever I want to say.’ Yeah, you can, but also you have the right to free speech with the responsibility of it as well.”
The event was held to protest unconstitutional speech policies and raising awareness of First Amendment rights, according to a press release.
Free speech is a right that comes with a lot of responsibility and sensibility, Ceron said.
“Of course you don’t want to say something offensive that you don’t think is going to be okay, but that’s your own common sense,” she said.
While free speech is a great and necessary right, defining the line between free speech and hate speech is not easy and applying restrictions to either is “nearly impossible,” said Ryan Mayer, UNM sophomore and new YAL member.
“I think hate speech is something terrible, but you can’t stop people from saying what they want,” Mayer said. “It’s nearly impossible to regulate, so I don’t think it should be regulated.”
Some who participated in the demonstration, including Mayer, said the idea of free speech is not limited to verbal expression.
“You can say anything you want, whether it is political or not political,” he said. “You can speak your mind. Free speech also applies to ideas and thoughts. I think that ideas and thoughts should be free and they should not be sanctioned or regulated in any sense.”
One beach-ball signee said that free speech could be exhibited through art, kneeling and any other way one wants to express oneself.
Some passers-by signed just their names on the oversized beach ball, while some took the opportunity to discuss the importance of free speech.
UNM junior Mackensee White discussed the recent dispute between President Trump and the NFL over whether kneeling during the National Anthem is disrespectful.
“According to the U.S. flag policy, things that are considered disrespectful to the flag are not kneeling,” White said. “Wearing it on clothing, which we all do. It’s having it on napkins which everyone does. It’s having it in advertisements which a lot of department stores do, and so kneeling isn’t disrespectful. If anything, it’s a sign of respect and recognizing that your nation is hurting because of something.”
After the beach ball made its rounds on campus, it was deflated and given to Ceron as a memento for her time as chapter leader.
Celia Raney is the news editor for the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @Celia_Raney.