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Group claims Cal Poly “investigating and threatening sanctions” against protesters

Posted at 6:14 PM, May 23, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-23 21:14:51-04

Another free speech clash at Cal Poly is making the rounds online.

Members of the SLO Peace Coalition protested at a career fair on campus in late April.

They sang a song in the vein of Lee Greenwood’s "God Bless the U.S.A." but with different lyrics criticizing the military and weapons makers.

"You’re killing all across the world for that war money and we proudly rise up until you put your weapons down," they sang outside the booth for defense contractor Raytheon.

A Facebook Live recording shows the group members sang and chanted for about 15 minutes. The students now say the university is investigating them.

Cal Poly would not say whether there’s an investigation, though the university did say the event was not open to the public.

Matt Lazier, media relations director for Cal Poly University Communications, sent KSBY News this statement:

Cal Poly supports the free speech rights of all of its campus community members and visitors. To ensure that the exercise of the right of free expression does not interfere with university functions, imperil public safety, obstruct or damage university facilities, or cause individuals to become audiences against their will, the university maintains and enforces campus regulations regarding the time, place and manner of the exercise of free expression by individuals and groups. These are outlined in Campus Administrative Policy 140.

I can also tell you that the specific event you reference was not open to the general public. Someone who chooses to stage a disruptive protest during such an event could face potential criminal charges. As well, if this action is engaged in by an employee or student, the university would review the activity to determine whether it violated a university policy. If a violation of university policy is found to have occurred, an employee and/or student could face appropriate disciplinary action.

Privacy laws preclude the university from discussing any specific student conduct processes, so I can’t tell you whether there are any reviews under way specific to this matter. However, I can say that there were no arrests associated with the protest, nor were any criminal charges submitted to the District Attorney’s Office.

The group has started a petition on Change.org asking the university to stop investigating them, claiming they were peaceful and the university has bigger issues to deal with.

"This happened the same week, or shortly thereafter, as Cal Poly’s administration decided not to sanction someone who did blackface," the petition reads. "While we are not sure what the sanctions will be, student peace activists are scared the university will threaten their futures."

SLO Peace Coalition is more than halfway toward its goal of 1,000 petition signatures.