A banner supporting President Donald J. Trump hung up by the University of Miami’s College Republicans was vandalized two separate times on the first day it was displayed outside of UM’s campus bookstore.
“Literally out of nowhere a girl just walks by with a bottle of black paint, and then she just splattered it all over, left, and that was it,” said UM sophomore marine and international affairs major Jacob Esquivel.
According to witnesses, at approximately 9:30 a.m. Monday, Oct. 26, an unknown individual covertly taped a sign reading “White supremacists get off my campus!” to the UMCR’s banner. Then, at around 12:15 p.m. that afternoon, an unidentified female defaced the banner with black paint before fleeing the scene. The female has since been contacted by UMPD.
UM students gave a variety of opinions on the incident with some praising and others condemning the vandals.
“Honestly it’s a little bit disturbing, it makes me a little embarrassed for our campus as a whole,” said Griffin Alexander, a junior at UM majoring in marine affairs and ecosystem science and club liaison for the UM College Republicans.
Political science major and junior at UM, Caroline Vazquez, who witnessed the black paint incident firsthand, says she thinks the vandal’s actions were justified.
“You go, girl!” Vazquez said.“I laughed when I saw the vandalization because I am very against Trump… I just thought it was weird that they even allowed that up there, especially something so big.”
Vazquez, who has already voted for Joe Biden, says that while she would not have done it herself, she supports the actions of the vandals and agrees that Trump is a white supremacist.
“I am a Latina woman who is very scared for my rights and what’s going on in this country and the political climate that Donald Trump has enforced,” Vazquez said. “I’m obviously biased… I wouldn’t want her getting in trouble and if she got in trouble I would have her back.”
Economics and American studies major and Treasurer of the UM College Republicans Ben Dias says he feels a college campus is no place for vandalism.
“Conflict grows from differences amongst people, and there are two main ways you can settle that,” Dias said. “You can settle that by basically forcing your ideas on someone else or you can discuss, talk about it, and try to find some middle ground… I wish that the vandal would have done that.”
The banner, which is over five feet long, was displayed outside of the bookstore with the permission of UM administration, who campus Republicans say has been extremely supportive of their mission.
“The administration itself has been very understanding of our situation,” Dias said. “I don’t think you could really go to any other college campus and even get permission to put up a Trump sign in the first place.”
He added that UM Facilities and Management later helped UMCR members clean the paint from the banner. On UMCR’s Instagram page, they also thanked UMPD for their support.
“I think UM is really committed to having intellectual discourse. It’s a shame that the student body doesn’t necessarily want to follow suit,” Dias said.
The vandalism has led some students to question whether political advertisements should be allowed on a college campus; Dias says that UM is expected to approve the display of a Biden banner on campus although this is unconfirmed. Some students say that the subject of the sign is not necessarily the problem.
“I don’t think that that sort of poster should be allowed to be up at UM whether it was Biden or Trump,” Vazquez said.
Drew Cohen, a first-year graduate student studying music business with a bachelor’s degree from the University, disagrees.
“I’d be okay with people posting signs of socialists,” Cohen said. “I’d be fine with people posting whatever they want on campus, just you know, they’re allowed to do that and no one should really throw paint on it.”
Cohen, a participating member of the UMCR who says he is voting for Trump but is “not too politically involved,” went on to appeal to UM students to take a step back and listen to what the other side has to say.
“I think that everyone should just drop their swords here for a sec and let’s just shake hands and not throw paint on each other’s things,” he said.
UM Republicans interviewed by The Hurricane stated that although they don’t always agree with the president, they do not believe he is a white supremacist.
“There’s a video around on Youtube that just says almost14 times that he has condemned white supremacy in the past,” Alexander said.
Alexander added that although President Trump’s response to public requests to condemn white supremacy has not always been perfect, he does not feel this makes him a white supremacist. He says that Trump’s legislative record while in office proves just the opposite.
“At some points yes he could have come out and condemned white supremacy stricter and stronger,” Alexander said. “He’s made really sweeping crime bills that have helped the black community… He’s clearly not out there to get them politically, and as far as I can tell, obviously, I’ve never met the man, he’s not racist.”
Alexander went on to say that he believes people like banner vandals use the label of white supremacist to undermine the President because of his many successes.
“I think it’s just a way to sort of slander him, find some sort of race politics that they can use to attack the president because he’s helping our economy and helping everybody so much,” Alexander said.
Eyewitness and Biden supporter Jacob Esquivel says he feels the vandals were justified in their actions because of President Trump’s rhetoric while in office.
“A lot of people claim that we shouldn’t resort to violence or destruction of property but they’re supporting a presidential candidate who also instills violence in the communities,” Esquivel said. “He’s done it before in rally’s and in his speeches, so how is that any different from what she did to the sign? I thought it was pretty cool.”
On Oct. 27, UM president Julio Frenk sent out an email to the UM community criticizing the vandals’ actions.
“Someone attempted to thwart their expression,” reads the email referencing the vandalization of the sign. “This is an unacceptable act of disrespect and those found responsible will be held accountable.”
The email was signed “we are one U. Julio Frenk.”
The UM College Republicans say they have another sign approved for on campus display and backups in case the vandal strikes again.
Mike Maslavi, a senior studying communications, says he feels it was obvious the sign would be vandalized.
“I’m sure the next one will be defaced too,” Maslavi said.