Since the mid-twentieth century, many Americans have seen free speech as primarily serving an inclusive and egalitarian concept of public space and political legitimacy. This view draws on stories of anti-war protestors and civil rights activists, like Mario Savio and Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth. An opposing view of free speech was on offer in President Trump’s March 2019 executive order to “protect free speech on campus.” While the impact of the order itself has been up for debate, its signing ceremony was an inflection point for a conservative vision of free speech as the province of normatively gendered whiteness.
Denisse Moreno Melchor, 20, and Mariel Alexandra Bustamante, 22, along with other students, peacefully protested the presence of Border Patrol at their university, a place they go to learn. As pedagogical research has shown (e.g. Smith 2011), learning can only take place when students are safe, and moreover, feel safe.