Students protest free speech zone

Not many students would voluntarily spend all night at their school, but most students aren’t as dedicated to their cause as Marco Valdez, George Miller, Jon-Mycal Panattoni, Ally Mcgill and Kayla Jeppeson. In December of 2012, this group of students from Professor Tim Jones’s Indecision 2012 class took their first amendment assignment one step further by camping out on school grounds to protest the free-speech zone.

The free speech zone is the area in front of the Bellevue College fountain between the C and D buildings where students are can promote causes without retribution from the school. According to BC’s Policies and Procedures, the free speech zone is “an area that shall be designated by the college president which can be reserved by student groups through the office of student programs.” Over the past quarter, the free speech zone has hosted religious groups, political groups and environmental groups promoting their cause. Miller, Valdez, Panattoni, Mcgill and Jeppeson believe the concept of a free speech zone itself detrimental to free speech. “We feel that it’s oppressing freedom of speech because it doesn’t really make any sense that you can only speak your mind in a specific are of the school,” said Miller.

According to Miller, Jones’s Indecision 2012 class looked at the issues in the election, especially issues of free speech, the first amendment, and voter suppression. In an interview with The Watchdog, he said that the camp-out fell “under one of the assignments that we were supposed to do that we got a little more involved in…our whole objective was, in the morning, to bring attention to protesting outside of the protest zone.”

However, their protest was cut short by campus security, who kicked the group out. Valdez said they tried to plead their case by explaining that they “were doing a political action assignment protesting the free speech zone,” but campus security wasn’t swayed and the group went home.

Not to be deterred, the group is planning another protest on May 15. “I’ve been talking to [campus security] on and off ever since then, asking how we can approach the matter differently next time, [asking] how we can set [a protest] up so we don’t inconvenience [security] while staying within our bill of rights because this is something we certainly care about,” said Miller. “They basically said that the rules they enforce come from the higher-ups, and so whatever they put in place they have to enforce.” Valdez and Miller are still looking for ways to continue their protest without breaking college laws and causing trouble for campus employees.

Students interested in getting more information about this event can email Marco Valdez at