University Police escorted three pro-Trump demonstrators from campus Thursday afternoon to “ensure their safety” after political debate became “boisterous” between the group and nearly 100 students.
“I came here to be purposely provocative,” said Nicholas Andrew Taurus, a Cal State Fullerton alumnus and member of Americans for Trump. “The climate against free speech is so prevalent here.”
The group carried signs that read phrases like “Islam is rape culture” and “Mohammad is a terrorist,” which drew criticism from students who stopped to listen. Wearing “Make America Great Again” hats, Laguna Hills residents Nicholas Taurus and his father Marcae Taurus argued with bystanders to the point of a shouting match.
Americans for Trump members reserved a table at Titan Walk from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., meaning that both Student Life and Leadership (SLL) and University Police had prior notice about Thursday’s demonstration, said University Police Capt. Scot Willey.
The event grew hostile with both students and protesters expressing their views on President Donald Trump’s immigration policies. Two separate scuffles occurred between Nicholas Taurus and other students but Willey said nobody was physically hurt or arrested.
First-year criminal justice major Andy Jacobo, who was involved in the first scuffle, said he got involved to stand up for his family.
“I’m not going to sit here and let some dumba** like this tell me what I have to believe in–what his morals are,” Jacobo said. “I think this is beautiful to see right now, everybody getting together united as one and we’re all standing for one thing: against these guys.”
Jake Wascher, a freshman theater major, said that he became involved in the incident because he no longer wanted to hear propaganda from the group without being able to speak.
“One of the protesters called a man of (a certain) race a name I’m not going to repeat, which caused a scuffle,” Wascher said. “Give us a healthy debate instead of one that almost caused a fight.”
The incident was quickly broken up by SLL and the demonstration moved into the Quad around noon. A second incident broke out around 12:30 p.m. between CSUF student Mohammad Gazaz and Nicholas Taurus. Two officers, a bystander and SLL broke up the fight.
“It’s not like a peaceful protest,” Gazaz said. “I said leave and f*** off. They are not welcome here.”
Nicholas Taurus said he thought all the issues his group was addressing made “valid points” for being weary of Islam, citing Islamic immigration to Western Europe and what he said is a corresponding increase in sexual assault and rape.
“They haven’t taken the time to listen to anything, they’re just getting mad,” Marcae Taurus said.
However, both Nicholas and Marcae Taurus said after the demonstration that they were happy the discourse got students involved in one way or another because their group’s intent was to be vocal about why they support and voted for Trump. They said they would consider coming back to CSUF in the future and are also planning to visit other colleges.
“If I can make this explicitly clear, we were there because of the incident that happened on the 8th (of February) where a professor and a student got in an altercation for the student’s political beliefs,” Nicholas Taurus said after the demonstration, referring to an altercation between the CSUF College Republicans club and anthropology lecturer Eric Canin during a counter-protest to a No-Ban-No-Wall march.
CSUF College Republicans club President Chris Boyle and Young Americans for Liberty President Aaron Van Meter Jones said their groups were not involved with the Americans for Trump demonstration.
“They have some signs that are critical of Islam in ways that I do not consider appropriate,” Boyle said. “It is always appropriate to be critical of things, I mean free speech is important and I support their right of speech but I do not think the way they are criticizing (Islam) is an accurate reflection of the way that my club thinks.”
Complaints made to the dispatch line concerning dislike for the demonstrator’s message were directed to the university’s free speech policy, Willey said.
“I think this is really what higher ed is all about in terms of the exchange of differing ideas and different perspectives,” said CSUF Chief Communications Officer Jeffrey Cook. “I think a lot of the student affairs professionals here, as well as the law enforcement professionals, are just trying to make sure that there’s a safe environment for that exchange, and so far, I think that has been upheld.”
While many students were angry over the demonstration, Willey said the crowds and discourse were typical of other demonstrations that occur on campus, using student engagement with religious preachers as an example.
“I think it was a good exchange of ideas, whether they agreed with each other’s side or not,” Willey said. “I saw them shaking hands with a couple of the people they were debating most of the time and that was good to see.”
Kyle Bender and Sarah Wolstoncroft contributed to this report.