Oh, those crazy College Republicans.
A pair of them were photographed on the campus of the University of California, Merced, last week holding signs in support of gun rights as well as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The GOP group members in question even added some humor to their homemade messages: One read “ICE ICE Baby” (with an ICE telephone number on the back) and another read “I Love Undocumented Firearms."
But others weren't in a mood to giggle and organized a protest of the College Republicans, chanting "education not deportation" and "say it loud, say it clear, immigrants are welcome here," Christina Acosta, a 31-year-old Ph.D. student who participated in the March 6 protest, told the Merced Sun-Star.
"We won’t allow this kind of hatred to stand,” she added to the paper, noting immigration policy can be stressful on campus.
“How many students walk by there and were traumatized by that?” Acosta asked the Sun-Star.
How did a school official react?
Chancellor Dorothy Leland told the paper in a statement that the College Republicans' signs “disturbed many of us," and she was troubled that those who held them aloft "would deliberately introduce added stress and anxiety into their fellow students’ lives."
Leland added to the Sun-Star that while the signs were “clearly intended to create an unwelcome environment for our nearly 600 undocumented students,” the College Republicans have the right to express their views even “if others would consider them offensive or harmful.”
@ UC Merced College Republicans encouraging people to call ICE on students they think are undocumented https://t.co/FUlGuHYfmx— katelyn (@katelyn)1520399531.0
Others blasted the signs on Twitter.
“I condemn this action," Whitney Pirtle, a UCM assistant sociology professor, declared in a series of tweets regarding the signs, Campus Reform reported. "It incites fear and anxiety in our students ..."
A UCM graduate tweeted that the signs exude "hate speech & endangerment of other students!”
Another Twitter user asked, “@UCMercedOSL will you continue to protect racists, xenophobia, white supremacy, and violence on our campus????? Will you hold yourself accountable for the violence you perpetuated today?” Campus Reform added.
How did the College Republicans react to the backlash?
Members of the College Republicans told the outlet the reactions shocked them.
“Free speech is the foundation of an open society," the group's vice president Devon Hunter told Campus Reform. "A university is where someone challenges their beliefs by being exposed to differing ones. ICE maintains order and ensures that the rights of citizens do not come after the rights of those from a foreign nation.”
He added to the outlet that it "pains me deeply that many young people think freedom of speech should be eliminated. Sanctuary states flaunting their disregard for federal law — and in some cases, intentionally obstructing the enforcement of these laws — is deeply disturbing.”
Hunter, 20, held up the ICE sign and told the Sun-Star that the signs were supposed to "hit close to home to show people this is the United States, and we have the First Amendment here to protect statements that are unpopular.”
An unnamed member of the College Republicans told the outlet that students, college staff and even professors threw insults, made "personal physical threats" and issued "calls to have our club shut down."