Four University of California, Los Angeles students are facing a social media firestorm after posing for a photo with signs criticizing the the transgender bathroom movement.
Haley Nieves, Julia Nista, Carlos Flores, and Victoria Metzel, all of whom are members of the College Republicans chapter at UCLA, attended an event last week featuring conservative columnist and activist Matt Walsh entitled “ An Encroachment on Liberty: How the Left Exploits Transgender Laws,” which was hosted by University of California at Santa Barbara students affiliated with Young Americans for Liberty.
The event focused on the recent controversies surrounding transgender individuals and laws regarding bathrooms and other public facilities, and was billed as a discussion of different ideas and ideologies with students from both the right and the left.
According to Nieves, a Sophomore at UCLA, the event itself was respectful and engaging, but the subsequent backlash has been anything but.
“One of the primary purposes of the event was to stimulate thoughtful dialogue between individuals of differing political opinions, and as such, we engaged in discussion with some individuals from the left in a respectful and courteous manner at the lecture itself,” Nieves told Campus Reform.
Just before entering the event itself, however, the four UCLA conservatives posed for a photo holding homemade signs expressing their beliefs.
The signs, which were brought into the event but not actually used to protest in any way, read “Get your agenda out of my restroom!”, “There are only two genders!”, and finally “Transgenderism is a mental disorder!”
However, soon after the photo was posted to Facebook, an uproar from liberal students and LGBT activists began, some of which were provided to Campus Reform as screenshots.
“Please get sterilized immediately,” demanded one commenter, while another speculated that “you can tell every single person in this picture has never been punched/slapped in their lives,” and warned that “their time is near.”
“I hope the earth suddenly opens up and swallows you all whole sending you directly to the firey [sic] pits of hell,” ranted still another, concluding the post with a smiley face for good measure.
Without a hint of irony, one Facebook user even sent an ineloquent and vitriolic message denouncing the “hate speech” written on the students’ signs, saying, “You’re a fucking piece of shit. I hope I find you so I can bash your face in myself. Disgusting piece of shit spreading hate online. I hope you die cunt.”
The students were also quickly condemned by Student Government leaders, including Heather Rosen, President of the UCLA Student Government, and Dahlia Salem, President of the California Community Colleges Senate, who even compared the UCLA conservatives to the terrorist group ISIS in a Facebook post.
“There are legitimate conservative views that can be respected and debated such as small government, free market, less regulation, and private sector services, however, the signs they were holding were not views it was simply hateful speech, bigotry and simply factually incorrect,” Salem told Campus Reform. “It cannot and should not be tolerated on our campuses.”
It wasn’t long before the students began to experience death threats, according to Nieves.
“I received a phone call shortly afterwards from my boss, who informed me that someone called the place of business threatening them,” she told Campus Reform.
Another student, Julia Nista, said the reaction has been just as bad for her, with death threats and personal attacks coming from various social media outlets. All of the students who posed for the photo have been targeted online, and according to Julia Nista, she now feels isolated on her own campus:
“Honestly, I feel isolated from the UCLA community,” she said. “If anything we struck a tabooed chord with them, but I have a good group of friends who believe the way I do and we are supporting each other.”
The backlash continues to come from both students and the community at large, but Metzel dismissed its significance, arguing that the threats merely “display the Left's blatant intolerance for opposition and unwillingness to discuss controversial topics freely and civilly.”