A University of Delaware police officer forced a student to scribble over a drawing of a penis inscribed on a gigantic "free speech" beach ball because it doesn't "open up a conversation." He went on to lecture the students who had the ball on display about what kinds of free speech he would tolerate.
"A campus police officer should never ask students to self-censor their constitutionally protected speech," said FIRE's Marieke Tuthill Beck-Coon in a statement. "As a public university, UD must abide by the First Amendment, which has very few exceptions—and subjectively offensive words or images are not one of them."
The officer's insistence that he had a duty to be the speech police was quite remarkable.
"If I were to write, 'I think Donald Trump should be the next president, I think that's something we could have a discussion about," he said. "Drawing a penis, or a swastika, or putting the n-word on there, what does that do?"
The YAL student responded that the two of them—the officer, and the student—were having a discussion about it at that very moment.
"I don't know that it really opens up a conversation," said the officer, disagreeing. "I just think it's meant to provoke."
Here's the thing, officer: the police are not in charge of deciding which kind of speech "opens up a conversation" and which kind is just "meant to provoke." Nor is there anything illegal about provocative speech. Sometimes speech should offend.