Groucho Marx once said that “politics is the art of looking for trouble.”
That seemed to be the case on March 27, when a student showed up with a controversial political sign and then had it thrown into a trash can against his will.
Pierce’s Political Science Society held an event to discuss Congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s controversial tweets about Israel.
Jason Aula said he is a conservative Republican who attended the event to display opposition towards Omar.
“I was there to condemn Congresswoman Omar because I don’t agree with a single word that she says,” Aula said. “I wanted to go there and oppose her peacefully.”
Aula brought along a handmade sign that featured a picture of congresswoman Omar and a swastika near her face.
Aula explained that his sign was meant to condemn congresswoman Omar and her policies.
“She’s blaming Islamic countries problems on Jewish folks, which is what the Nazis did,” Aula said. “In my view, congresswoman Omar is acting like a Nazi, and that’s what the sign is about.”
Aula claims that his sign was misinterpreted and that some people seemed to think that he was being pro-Nazi.
“I’m a person of color. I don’t support Nazis,” Aula said. “I know it’s a controversial sign, but I’m a creative person and I thought that it was a creative way of expressing my view.”
When Aula arrived at the doorway, he noticed that the discussion had already begun and decided to wait outside of the classroom rather than go in.
“I didn’t go into the classroom because I had arrived late and I thought that it’d be rude to just come in,” Aula said. “I didn’t want to walk in on someone speaking, so I chose to stay by the doorway and listen and express myself with my sign.”
As Aula stood outside, participants inside the classroom noticed his sign and some took offense to it.
One student walked outside and threw Aula’s sign into a trash can.
Aula was startled by the incident and said he felt threatened by the act.
“It was alarming that I was subject to that kind of treatment when I’m just a student seeking to participate in the event like everyone else,” Aula said. “It made me uncomfortable.”
Aula admits that the sign was controversial, but that he does not think this should serve as an excuse to justify violent behavior.
“It’s a First Amendment right,” Aula said. “You can’t destroy someone’s property just because you disagree with it.”
Club President Emiliano Acosta said that confrontations like this had never happened at their events.
“This was the first time something like this happened,” Acosta said. “I think because of the nature of the club, we get a lot of people with different views, so it did get a little hectic.”
Aula retrieved his sign from the trash, although he said it was damaged from the impact. He continued to stand outside and silently observe until campus security arrived to question him.
Daniel Levi was one of the students participating in the discussion, and he called campus on Aula.
“I called the sheriff because they told me that this wasn’t a free-speech zone,” Levi said. “He had the sign up for everyone to see in class and they were getting uncomfortable.”
Campus security told Aula that he had to take the sign down because he was not in a free-speech zone. Aula obeyed, and proceeded into the classroom to join the debate.
Aula said that the only thing he regrets about his encounter with campus security was that he did not mention how one of the students had damaged his property.
“I should have requested the sheriff to talk to that guy [who destroyed my sign]. I think that it’s a really big problem that someone got away with that” Aula said. “I wouldn’t want the guy arrested or cited, I just want him to be warned not to do stuff like that.”
After entering the classroom, Aula shared his opinion with the class.
“The first thing I said when I had the opportunity was ‘please look up what an Islamist is,’” Aula said. “Congresswoman Omar is an Islamist, and I think it’s alarming that more students don’t know what an Islamist is.”
Levi said that he was glad Aula joined the discussion.
“He came inside the class and actually talked and showed his opinion on Omar,” Levi said. “Hopefully he’ll come back and share his opinion instead of just standing outside with a sign.”
Aula said that despite the one hostile incident, he had a pleasant experience at the discussion.
“I think it was a successful event nonetheless because I got to ask the question ‘do you know what an Islamist is?’ I’m sure quite a few people looked up what that word was,” Aula said. “I guarantee at least one person who didn’t oppose Congresswoman Omar before, opposes her now.”