University Students Sanctioned After Protesting Film


Madeline Wilson

Protestors block the screening of “The Greatest Lie Ever Sold”.

Savanna Yelling, Editor-in-Chief

Several students at Central Connecticut State University have received sanctions from the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities, for protesting a club’s movie screening.

The student chapter of Turning Point USA at CCSU attempted to show “The Greatest Lie Ever Sold: George Floyd and the Rise of BLM” in Devil’s Den on March 2.

Minutes into the film, dozens of students gathered on the stage in front of the screen holding signs that read “No safe space for racists,” “It was murder,” “I can’t breathe,” and more. Students chanted, blocked the screen and used a megaphone to make a loud blaring noise, preventing the film from being watched.

Pride Club President and Sociology Club Vice President, Nova LaPointe, is one of the students who received a sanction for protesting.

Despite not orchestrating the protest, LaPointe has been wrapped up in the consequences, she said.

“It wasn’t something I organized,” LaPointe said. “It was something I was asked to participate in. We wanted it to be known that we disagreed with the movie because the movie is aberrant. It uses the footage of somebody’s death to attack the Black Lives Matter movement. Which is just so fucked up.”

LaPointe said she knew protesting ran the risk of punishment, but said she was surprised to receive her sanction days later.

“I was asked to leave, and I left,” LaPointe said. “I figured if anything would happen it would happen that night. In my mind, if they were going to do something they would arrest people.”

Marcelina Halas, the President of Turning Point CCSU, said despite the right to protest, the events that took place on March 2 were unwarranted.

“What transpired was unacceptable,” Halas said. “For protesters to be there interrupting an event that had been approved.”

According to the club’s Instagram page, Turning Point’s mission is to promote free markets, free speech and small government.

Halas said while students have the right to protest, the situation needs to be put into context.

“We support the right to free speech and the ability to peacefully protest,” Halas said. “Their right to protest was violating our right to show the movie.”

Halas said she believes it is the school’s responsibility to protect students’ rights.

“As a public university, CCSU is bound to the first amendment,” Halas said. “It’s their duty to protect us”

LaPointe said she has been coherent with all orders given surrounding the sanctions, including a meeting with the Director of the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities, Stephanie Reis.

“They didn’t want to talk to me in that meeting about what the movie was about because they knew me,” LaPointe said. “They only wanted to talk to me about me interrupting.”

LaPointe said she only spoke out in the meeting to inform Reis of details left out of the complaints.

“I basically just sat in that meeting and said nothing,” LaPointe said. “Other than that I left when I was asked to. That was apparently information that did not make it to Stephanie at rights and responsibilities before we met.”

After the meeting, LaPointe was found responsible for disruption or obstruction of a university function, activity or event, according to an email from the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities.

Turning Point has hosted other film watch parties that have been met with backlash. Such as the club’s showing of “What is a Woman?”

“You could argue that the way we protested was too far,” LaPointe said. “But I would argue that we met the situation at hand. There were more civil protests tried and it was this protest that got the results we wanted.”

“What is a Woman?” was shown during Transgender Awareness Week and “The Greatest Lie Ever Sold” was shown two days after Black History Month ended.

The Turning Point President said showing these controversial films during celebratory times should not be an issue.

“These movies are deemed controversial by outside sources,” Halas said. “They showcase a viewpoint that is not shown in mainstream media. I don’t think it should be off limits for conservatives to voice their opinions during certain times.”

The backlash that the “What is a Woman?” showing received did not prevent the movie from being viewed, however, the protesting of “The Greatest Lie Ever Sold,” did. The risk was worth the reward, LaPointe said.

“That movie is trying to be “The Birth of a Nation” for the modern era,” LaPointe said. “I think that movie crosses a line — more than. I think one of the ways you can see that is when Turning Point defends it. They have to defend it on free speech. They can’t defend it on their ideals.”

LaPointe was assigned a learning module and a four-page paper showing her understanding of hate speech, free speech and peaceful protest, she said.

In response, a letter of student support asking that the administration rescind the punishments was written to President Toro. The letter was signed by over 30 faculty and staff members.

“What made a lot of my professors upset about the assignment I was given is it showed a disregard for how we got here,” LaPointe said. “We’ve only gotten to a place where I can be who I am because of a hell of a lot of protesting and a hell of a lot of more violent and less violent protesting.”