University of Minnesota College Republicans are calling vandalism to a mural they created to decorate the Washington Avenue bridge a violation of their free speech.
The organization painted one a panel in support of Donald Trump's presidential bid as a part of the "Paint the Bridge," event. The panel was defaced by vandals this week.
In a statement released Saturday, the group's president Madison Faupel said they found it highly disturbing someone would vandalize their sign.
A portion of the mural was not very well received. It said, "Build the Wall," to express support for Trump's proposal to build a wall along the Mexican border to stop illegal immigration into the United States.
Vandals used gold paint over the top it, reading, "Stop white supremacy."
In her statement Faupel said:
"We have been falsely accused of being racist, xenophobic, and anti-immigrant. Our party's nominee supports building a wall on the Mexican border to stop the flow of illegal immigrants into this country. We understand that some students may disagree with this policy position. However, free speech is at the center of a functioning democracy, and the actions taken against our panels run contrary to free speech. It's worth noting that numerous politicians from both parties support building a wall on the Mexican border."
The mural drew a protest from one student group which called it "anti-immigrant hate speech," noting that the murals targeted specific groups of people.
Other groups also spoke up about it. The group Navigate MN said the message, "echos [sic] the anti-Mexican, anti-immigrant racist rhetoric that has instigated violence across the nation."
It also drew a lot of negative attention on the group's Facebook page.
However, University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler backed the mural as protected free political speech.
"While this is protected as free political speech, we have heard from members of our community who find the phrase hurtful, offensive, anti-immigrant and anti-Latinx. People in our community may disagree with the sentiment expressed. However, while the University values free speech, the subsequent vandalism of the panel is not the way to advance a conversation."