A student organization is receiving national media attention from organizations like Breitbart after their anti-socialism display was taken down.
The display was created by UNC Charlotte’s chapter of Young Americans for Freedom, a conservative group committed to “individual freedom, a strong national defense, free enterprise, and traditional values.” It consisted of 21 cardboard tombstones placed in the CHHS/COED plaza. The first sign read “YAF’s socialism graveyard” followed by 20 more that displayed country names and the amount of people who allegedly died from communism in that country.
Founding Chairwoman Emma Schambach said the group spent four to five hours creating the tombstones, which she said were in the spirit of Halloween, over the weekend and about an hour setting them up before their meeting Monday night. When they left the Student Union around 8 p.m., the signs were still there, but they had been removed before 8 a.m. the next morning.
Schambach said the signs were based off of statistics from "The Black Book of Communism," a 1997 novel cataloging political repressions under communist states.
Schambach added that YAF had been discussing capitalism and socialism throughout the month of October and members of the club shared concerns that they could not express pro-capitalist thought in class without feeling backlash from students and professors.
“We decided that was a violation of free speech,” said Shambach, “and so we thought, what better way to exercise our right to speech than to put up a display that states our stance on the issue of capitalism vs. socialism?”
Schambach admitted that the group didn’t reserve the space between COED and CHHS for their display but said it was because they had displayed 3,000 flags in the same spot for 9/11 and didn’t face any repercussions. UNC Charlotte Event Coordinator Aisling Jerome clarified that students must reserve the space.
“UNC Charlotte did not remove [the] Young Americans for Freedom display on campus and university administration has reached out to the organization based on their concerns,” the University said in a statement to the Charlotte Observer.
“UNC Charlotte is committed to cultivating a campus environment in which our students, faculty and staff are empowered to express competing ideas. The University’s vision and values promise a robust intellectual environment that values social and cultural diversity and free expression.”
Schambach said she never assumed the University had removed the tombstones, but rather suspected it was done by a “hostile student.”
UNC Charlotte's chapter of Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA) commented, "[The signs] display information generally regarded as inaccurate, and the views of authoritarian regimes such as The People's Republic of China, the defunct USSR, as well as other nations do not reflect the views or policy proposals of the Democratic Socialists of America nor UNC Charlotte's YDSA."
Schambach posted on Facebook that the group plans to reconstruct the display on Wed., Oct. 30, “just in time for Halloween.”