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Sunday, July 5, 2020

YAF reports stolen signage

Some ads for anti-abortion film, gun rights were posted without permission

By Nate Sanford and Mazey Servin

This article was amended on April 7, 2020, to remove the name of a source who was subjected to online harassment after the story was published. The Western Front condemns all forms of harassment, and strives to minimize harm in our reporting. 

The removal of anti-abortion and pro-gun signage have reignited debate over free speech at Western.

A number of posters were placed across campus by the Western chapter of Young Americans for Freedom (YAF), a conservative organization that was behind a highly publicized “chalking incident” in February. 

On March 1, a member of YAF called the police to report that a banner advertising a movie night hosted by YAF later that week had been torn from the southwest side of the Environmental Studies building and placed in the garbage. The featured movie was “Gosnell,” a 2018 film about a former abortion provider who was convicted of murder. 

The movie night was co-hosted by the Western chapter of Students for Life of America, an-anti abortion group closely associated with YAF.  

The banner’s tagline read, “Is abortion really healthcare?”

The reporting party told police the banner — valued at roughly $40, according to the police report — was created with approval from WWU Associated Students. 

This is not the first time YAF’s posters have sparked a reaction. Last year, a banner advertising “Lies Feminists Tell,” a speech by an anti-abortion activist, was lit on fire. 

Vincent Paddon, the vice chair of YAF, said that incident was reported to the police as well. 

“We decided with this banner, we would make it as benign as possible, put resources on there for students who may be suffering from suicidal thoughts,“ Paddon said. “Because people always say that we don’t care about triggering people.”

Paddon said the banner was intended to start conversation. 

Paddon said he challenges “the idea that people would look at that and think, ‘OK, one, I can’t even engage with that question, and not only can I not engage with that question, but I need to stop others from engaging in that question.” 

YAF also placed several smaller posters in other locations across campus, including Academic West. Some posters advertised the movie night, while others simply read, “Pro-gun is pro-woman.”

One student who has a majority of their classes in Academic Instructional Center West, said they instantly noticed the posters.

“There were posters on literally every wall, inside the elevators,” the student said. “I think I found one in the bathroom. They were seriously everywhere.”

Paddon said Academic West doesn’t have poster boards for flyers, so the Associated Students told YAF to hang the flyers around others that were posted in Academic West. 

The student said they immediately started taking down the posters. Ira Hyman, a psychology professor, also noticed the posters.

“They were posted in places that don’t actually allow posters, but were out of my reach,” he said in an email.

According to the student, some of the posters were placed in inaccessible spots above a stairwell. A post on YAF’s facebook page shows a person standing on another YAF member’s shoulders to place posters in a different location. 

Hyman said he notified Jim Graham, the psychology department chair, and sent him a picture of the posters. When Hyman returned to the spot later, the posters had been removed. 

“Did we have specific permission to put them in every single place we did? No,” Paddon said. 

There were plenty of other posters advertising other events on campus next to the ones YAF put up, Paddon said. He said those posters were not torn down. 

“So it seems like if it’s the school tearing them down, it’s very, very selective rule enforcement,” Paddon said. “And if it’s students tearing them down, then it’s just, you know, very selective vigilantism.”

The student said they don’t regret taking down the posters.

“No one should have to be walking around about their day and have to see that,” they said. “Especially if you’ve had an abortion, it’s just really dehumanizing.” 

The Associated Students Publicity Center assists clubs on campus with printing and placing posters on campus. Any club can request that a certain number of posters be placed in designated sites. 

If clubs want additional publicity, they can put posters on the open posting boards located throughout campus, said Rondi Nordal, the Associated Students Publicity Center distribution coordinator.

“But if a group is worried about their posters being taken down, then the open posting boards probably aren’t the best location for them,” Nordal said. “They would want them in our glass cases.”

Several of the “pro-gun is pro-woman” posters were also placed in the glass cases located on the outside of the Communications Facility and the Environmental Studies building. 

Paddon said the destruction of the posters can be useful for YAF. Students who are undecided on the issue might view the poster destruction as an attempt to silence free speech, Paddon said. 

“So in a sense it’s helpful, because it shows the actual ideology of the radical left,” he said. 

Western Front policy requires reporters to confirm with all sources which pronouns they use. When asked, Paddon responded, “I don’t play the pronoun game, I’m a man.” 

Editor note: Because of Nate Sanford’s prior involvement in YDSA during winter and spring of 2019, reporting on YAF was conducted by Mazey Servin. It is the Western Front’s policy to avoid and disclose potential conflicts of interest. Sanford’s involvement with YDSA did not coincide with his work for The Front.

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