The Young Americans for Freedom club erected a mock Berlin Wall in the outdoor quad last week. The wall which said things like “Revolt” and “Socialism is slavery” was meant to commemorate both the fall of the Berlin Wall and Veterans Day for Freedom Week. The project was met with an array of reactions, including a counter sign which was erected later in the day by the LMC Allies club.
For many, the wall elicited a bit of confusion as students and faculty tried to grasp exactly what message the wall was supposed to send. Some initially thought the club was trying to make a statement about the current political climate, a few thought it was about slavery and others were simply stuck on the big bright message about socialism.
“I see the words ‘socialism,’ ‘slavery’ — I just want to know what’s it all about,” said Los Medanos College student Sierra Smith.
YAF Treasurer Zack Medeiros and Vice President Joseph Tompkinson were there to answer questions about the project. Their intention, the club members said, was to reject “oppressive socialist ideas.”
“Everything on that wall attaches to fascism, socialism, communism and anything that’s anti-freedom is really represented right there,” said Medeiros.
However, because the wall was just a mock and not an accurate historic replica of the Berlin Wall the message fell flat with a lot of students. Some were offended and felt the wall promoted a right wing agenda rather than commemorate the history of the Berlin Wall and supporting veterans.
“Socialism isn’t communism. I think they need to do more research,” said Vanessa Viveros, a student at LMC. “I think this is more like propaganda.”
The wall, YAF club members admitted, was intended to have a modern spin. It was an assignment from their parent organization Young Americas Foundation who encouraged members to decorate it with what they felt was relevant to their message.
“It’s just kind of a representation of not only history, but things going on in the modern day that feel applicable,” said Tompkinson.
However, the message about safe spaces sparked a counter demonstration from the LMC Allies club.
Tuesday, Nov. 6 a small white poster was put up which said in big black letters “No more walls, no more war.” It was covered in butterflies with messages like “No dream is impossible,” and “We are not aliens” as well as an upside down American flag, a symbol of extreme distress. The flag had been removed from the poster by unknown persons by Wednesday morning.
LMC Allies President Akila Briggs said their demonstration was in response to the original placement of the mock Berlin Wall, which stood in front of the library, the club’s meeting space, without the white letter of clarification later added by YAF. The lack of information, the club felt, was a fear mongering tactic.
“Allies is one of the only clubs that actively goes out and says that we are a safe space,” said Briggs, “and a lot of the demonstrations they do they’re always talking about dismantling safe spaces.”
Briggs felt YAF has had a history of making people feel unwelcome.
“It is not the first time they’ve tried to incite fear on campus,” said Briggs, citing the controversial 9/11 poster. Briggs and other Allies wanted to be a positive force against that.
In designing their counter demonstration Allies club was sure to add things that made what they perceived to be targeted groups feel welcome. They also included graffiti from the real Berlin Wall which is where the “No more walls, no more war” message came from.
On Thursday, Nov. 8 YAF invited students to help them tear the wall down with sledge hammers, but after a few swings left it to club members themselves. Overall, the club felt the week had been successful in promoting dialogue. Club president Jessica Anderson said they had had “civil” conversations with self-identified socialists.
“This isn’t a reason to be… afraid or however people could possibly react to it. And it should and I think it is sparking conversation and conversation that should be had,” said Medeiros.