Letter: ‘Stop vandalizing the Washington Avenue Bridge’ editorial grossly misleading

Kayla Pederson and Luke Goossens

We’re writing in response to this editorial board’s Oct. 9 editorial, “Stop vandalizing the Washington Avenue Bridge.” This piece was grossly misleading and a deliberate obfuscation of the real issues at hand.

First of all, vandalism is, in Minnesota, a misdemeanor or felony at most — not, as this paper claimed, a breach of constitutional rights. The Constitution grants the federal government specific powers. Rather than being a document of limitations, it is a document that specifically grants our government its limited set of powers. The Bill of Rights comprise a list of protections for the people against that government, the First Amendment being the one invoked by this paper.

But nowhere do we see in this case any instance of our government limiting the free speech of any entity protected by the First Amendment. We only see private citizens allegedly committing a misdemeanor against student organizations. This distinction is important, and it was irresponsible of this paper to engage in reckless and uninformed accusations.

Further, the writers blatantly ignored the animus behind this “Trump Train.” If we are to honestly believe that this was an innocent expression of opinions rather than a deliberate act of racially motivated marginalization of perpetually abused populations, this paper is asking us to engage in a great lie of the Trump era. This lie is that all opinions are equal, that we need to honor hate speech as much as free speech, that advocates of oppression deserve tolerance. This lie must end.

Emphasizing the acts of resistance by oppressed communities is another way to uphold the white supremacy emblematic of this administration, rather than to ameliorate the oppression that is emblematic of our nation’s history. By framing this as a “free speech” issue, this paper has conscripted itself into a role in upholding the status quo of marginalization, presenting resistance as a threat worse than the oppression it seeks to end. Implicitly, this is an endorsement of that oppression, or else the writers sincerely believe that defacing a sign is tantamount to systematically decimating the lives and prospects of entire peoples.

More recently, the Trump Train has been covered with “CENSORED” by its original artists — revealing an ignorance of vocabulary reminiscent of calling vandalism a “breach of constitutional rights.” It is simply not true that defacing a sign is censorship. That word requires a backing of power and authority such as only governments or perhaps large corporations have. Oppressed populations can hardly be said to be censoring those in dominant culture by merely opposing them — they have no standing to do so by the very nature of their status as oppressed. Claiming the victimhood of being oppressed is an attempt to gaslight the victims of actual oppression, a behavior often seen in perpetrators of abuse, sexual and otherwise.

In a time when our president requires entire days to consider condemning white supremacists, the content of the Trump Train constituted nothing more than a thinly veiled statement of dominance and intimidation. In keeping with decent society, it was opposed.

This letter has been lightly edited for grammar and style.

Kayla Pederson is a University of Minnesota recent graduate. Luke Goossens is a University of Minnesota-Duluth recent graduate.