Student Disrupts Free Speech Demonstration by Stabbing Giant Beach Ball, Is Questioned by Police

The Young Americans for Liberty at UC San Diego were tabling on library walk this past Friday in protest of unconstitutional speech codes and awareness of First Amendment rights when a student stabbed the free speech ball around four times with what YAL group claims was a knife. The free speech ball was a six-foot beach ball on which students could write whatever they would like as a part of YAL’s free speech campaign.

YAL initially contacted the UCSD Guardian regarding the incident, providing a statement on their version of events.

According to YAL, the student who allegedly stabbed the ball was first asked by the group if he would like to sign the free speech petition, and did so under the name “Karl Marx.” When signing the free speech ball itself, the student wrote “sic semper tyrannus,” Latin for “thus always to tyrants.” The student, who has since been identified as Revelle sophomore Luca Vallino, then proceeded to stab the ball four times without the group noticing. No one was hurt during the incident.

While the free speech ball was intended to promote awareness for first amendment rights, in a statement responding to Friday’s incident, Vallino argues that the “reactionary, opportunistic, and hypocritical slogans did not, and do not, constitute a free exercise of rights.”

“Apart from the usual phrases from Far Right dictionary, several slogans were plastered on its surface of an extremely dangerous and despicable nature, including #ropegang, a slogan used to identify people wishing to ejaculate semen on the faces of women, and anti-immigrant slogans,” Vallino said. “In addition to these, obscene slogans condoning gang rape appeared on the ball.”

Although his intentions for doing so were in retaliation of the obscene phrases written on the ball, Vallino does admit that stabbing the object “was an admittedly poorly-considered attempt to symbolically protest.” However, Vallino contends that the phrases left on the ball had nothing to do with the first amendment and should not be condoned because of the things they were promoting.

At the YAL table during Friday’s occurrence were members of the group, among them UCSD YAL Chapter President Jonah Naoum as well as Brian Pryor from the Leadership Institute.

The group and Pryor observed the ball deflating and subsequently patched it up and called the UC San Diego Police Department. Vallino had also left his email on the petition, associating him with the Groundworks Books Collective. YAL and Pryor then went to the co-op in the Old Student Center. However, Pryor supposedly was pushed out of the store by one of the employees as Vallino ran away. YAL students along with Pryor responded by calling campus police for a second time.

Vallino describes the incident at Groundworks in his statement, saying that one of the non-student organizers working with YAL, being Pryor, attempted to intimidate members of those a part of the Groundworks Books Collective by taking photos without their consent and saying that he would call the police, subsequently doing so. Vallino adds that a longtime elderly volunteer of Groundworks denied entry to Pryor, who refused and engaged in a physical altercation with the eighty-year-old, inflicting lacerations on the volunteer while yelling at bystanders that he had been assaulted.

The statement also describes Pryor, other members of YAL and an off-duty employee of the university blockading Vallino and members of Groundworks from leaving until campus police had arrived at the scene.

YAL stated that Vallino was arrested by the UCSD police and brought in for questioning after the station was notified by an off-duty officer who stopped the student. However, Vallino stated he was not arrested but detained pending investigation.

When the Guardian contacted campus police to confirm the incident, campus police contradicted YAL’s statement as well. In accordance with Vallino’s statement, campus police informed the Guardian that Vallino was not arrested nor brought in for questioning given that the owner of the beach ball did not want to press charges.

Campus police additionally noted that the phone call they received informing them of Vallino’s whereabouts came from a member of the YAL, and not an off-duty security guard. Upon learning the location of the Revelle student, campus police then went to the scene where they detained and questioned the student. Campus police had no knowledge of the prior incident at Groundworks.

Despite campus police’s denial that Vallino was arrested, YAL maintains in an unofficial comment that he was as Vallino was “publically handcuffed,” and “legally, to be placed in handcuffs is a restriction on your liberty and that qualifies as arrest.”

The full statement from Vallino and Groundworks can be viewed here.

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