Vandalism, arguments follow this year’s Paint the Bridge event

Multiple political groups’ murals were defaced between Friday and Saturday afternoon.

by Allison Cramer

Politics again took center stage at the University of Minnesota’s Paint the Bridge event this year.

Multiple political student groups’ panels were vandalized in the days following the Washington Avenue Bridge mural-painting event, and police were called to the bridge Thursday afternoon when two students got in a heated argument over the College Republicans’ panels.

The incidents – which took place between Thursday and Saturday afternoon – come after last year’s divisive Paint the Bridge event, where the College Republicans’ “Build the Wall” panel prompted protests involving over 100 students.

Panels Targeted

Panels painted by the College Republicans, Turning Point USA, the Minnesota Republic and the Minnesota Bipartisan Issues Group were vandalized between Friday and Saturday afternoon. College Republican’s panel mural depicted the slogans, “least popular minority on campus,” and, “still not tired of winning.”

The College Republicans’ and Turning Point USA’s panels were painted in white, along with phrases like, “can’t paint over hate,” and, “racists not welcome.”

“A” symbols, like those associated with the anarchist movement, were painted on the College Republicans’ and Minnesota Bipartisan Interest Group’s panels. 

The vandalism had been painted over by Sunday afternoon.

The vandalism is an issue of extremism, not partisanship, said Miguel Anselmo, vice president of Turning Point USA — a group that advocates for limited government, according to its website.

“I think this is a good opportunity for Democrats, Republicans, liberals, conservatives, to come together and really try to fight against this extremism,” Anselmo said.

Sym Clough, president of Minnesota Bipartisan Issues Group, said she doesn’t know why they were targeted, but they weren’t hit as hard as some since only the “A” symbol was spray-painted on the group’s panel.

“We try to create a dialogue, we’re giving people a chance to speak and say their opinion. They could be upset about that,” Clough said, speculating about why somebody might have defaced the group’s panel.

The Minnesota Bipartisan Issues Group will talk about the vandalism at its meeting Thursday, she said.

“We’ve debated a lot if there is a point where free speech turns into hate speech,” Clough said. “But I think vandalizing something is not necessarily the best way of getting your opinion out there.”

Representatives from Student Unions and Activities, the University of Minnesota Police Department, the Minnesota Republic and College Republicans did not respond to requests for comment Saturday.

Vandalism and free speech disputes 

UMPD responded to a heated argument between two University students over the College Republicans’ panel in a separate incident Thursday afternoon.

Senior Imogen Page said she approached the College Republicans’ panels Thursday afternoon to tape signs reading, “resist white supremacy,” and, “fight fascism,” among others, over them.

The mural displayed a train with the words “Trump Pence 2020,” along with the phrases, “still not tired of winning,” and, “least popular minority on campus.”

College Republicans member Ethan Bunn said he saw Page trying to tape signs on the panels and intervened.

Page said Bunn assaulted her, grabbing her arm and taking her papers and marker. 

Bunn said he asked her to leave, kicked her papers and threw her marker, but didn’t assault or touch her. 

University police were called to the bridge after the altercation, UMPD Lieutenant Chuck Miner told the Minnesota Daily Friday afternoon.

Page later posted two videos to Facebook showing her and Bunn arguing, in which he calls her a fascist and she accuses him of assaulting her. The videos have since been removed.

University police also responded to a different incident related to the College Republicans’ panels on the Washington Avenue Bridge Thursday night, Miner said, adding that both incidents were under investigation. More details from UMPD should be available in coming days, he said.

Last year, the College Republicans’ “Build the Wall” panel and ensuing demonstrations launched a contentious debate over what constitutes protected speech on the University campus. Many students called the mural’s message offensive or even hateful, and others maintained students’ rights to voice their opinions.

University President Eric Kaler called for those who disagreed with the message to “engage in more protected speech” at the time, drawing criticism from many who were angry he didn’t denounce the message.