“Free speech all the time, not just when admin says when, where, what about,” read one side of the neon-yellow sign fielded by Ali Cohen, an education major at Coastal Carolina University, during a recent campus rally.
On the sign’s flip side: “#BlackLivesMatter. And I should not be facing charges for writing that… in chalk.”
Cohen is one of a handful of Coastal students facing disciplinary action for sidewalk chalk messages protesting racial injustice and the non-indictment of Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in Michael Brown’s shooting. Three of the students—those caught in the act—were handcuffed and detained by CCU police. Cohen was identified by surveillance camera footage from the night before. “The video showed multiple people,” says Cohen. “They identified me from a picture of me in the library.”
The university said it will not be pursing criminal charges, but Cohen and her chalk co-conspirators have been charged with violations of the university’s conduct code, including vandalism and “unauthorized usage/entry.” A police incident report alleges $1,000 in damages from the chalk—the same sort regularly used by Greek organizations and student groups on the same campus sidewalks.