Students passing out American flags at Northern Arizona University to mark the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks were surprised when school staff stopped by and told them to pack up and go elsewhere.
Members of the school’s conservative club set up a table outside Friday and were handing out flags, the Arizona Daily Sun reported, but when it started to rain, the club moved indoors, into the University Union.
But university staff members told the students they would need to get a permit to stay there, citing rules from the student handbook -- otherwise go back outside or to another section inside the building, the Sun reported.
The newspaper cited a video recorded by a former leader of the club that showed school employees arguing with students over the matter. When one of the students asked an employee for her definition of the First Amendment, the employee replied, "Free speech in a designated time, place and manner."
The students then packed up and canceled the event.
A school spokesman defended the rules, saying it wasn’t a free speech issue.
"We were asking them to move to a different location within the same area. This is basically clearing the walkways,” he told the Arizona Daily Sun.
The students were not charged with disciplinary action.