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Matt Gaetz, far-right leaders, challenge Clemson after incident with students canvassing

The State

Congressman Matt Gaetz, a national far right figure, has jumped into the frenzy over a viral video from Clemson College Republican students who were told they couldn’t canvas outside a football game, by challenging the president of Clemson to answer eight questions.

The viral video surfaced on X, formerly known as Twitter, and South Carolina Republicans expressed concern with how the students were treated by university officials outside the Orange and White spring football game.

The video, which spans around six minutes, features the interaction April 6 between Clemson University students and officials. As the football game is heard in the background, the College Republican students are outside the stadium canvassing for S.C. state Rep. Stewart Jones, R-Laurens, who is running for the third congressional district. The students were told they could not be outside the stadium campaigning.

The video immediately picked up heat from South Carolina Freedom Caucus members, including Adam Morgan, who is running for the fourth congressional district. “These students stood up for their 1st Amendment rights even in the face of threats from University officials and law enforcement. The future is bright with young patriots like these in SC! The @SCFreedomCaucus has your back,” the tweet read.

Rep. April Cromer, also reposted and quoted the video. Cromer posted photos of students holding up LGBTQ+ signs asking why the students pictured went without interruption compared to the college Republican group.

Jones sent a letter to the Vice President of Student Affairs at Clemson, asking the school to review any policies that would infringe on first amendment rights and requesting an apology be made from the officials or officer to the students.

“I am very proud of the Clemson College Republicans as they calmly stood their ground against unconstitutional harassment,” Jones tweeted April 9.

On April 11, Gaetz wrote a letter to Clemson University’s president, asking him to respond to eight questions about the incident including who the university officials and officer were, if they would face disciplinary action and what the university will do to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

“No student, indeed no citizen on the grounds of a public institution should have to go through this kind of ordeal,” Gaetz, a Congressman from Florida wrote.

The video has garnered more than 327,000 views, with the organization fronting the video with “Clemson College Republicans barred from using freedom of speech?”

The video starts out when university officials approach the students, telling them they can’t be there.

“We don’t want to make a big spectacle,” the university official told the students multiple times. He asked the students to take down their signs and move elsewhere.

“You’re making a spectacle. You’re kicking us out,” one student replied.

“No, I’m asking you to leave. I’m not kicking you out,” the university official replied.

The officials then told the students they could not be handing out the signs they had with Jones’ information on them. One of the students asked the officials if they knew what it was.

“The policy says soliciting, this is not soliciting,” another student said.

After more back and forth between the students and university officials, they called an officer over, who said there is no soliciting allowed and that athletics had asked the group does not continue what they were doing.

When students received an explanation of what they did wrong, they were told they violated the university policy of soliciting. The twitter post accompanying the video read “The Vice President of Student Affairs at Clemson, Chris Miller, has assured our organization that we did absolutely NOTHING wrong. We will not face bogus violations like the police officer in the video tried to threaten us with.”

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