A college student in California who says he was assaulted by a classmate for wearing a ‘MAGA’ hat on campus said he plans to file criminal charges against his attacker.
Matthew Vitale, a member of the University of California, Riverside Republicans, said he was “stunned” when classmate Edith Macias snatched his “Make America Great Again” hat from his head during a campus meeting.
Vitale alerted authorities after the incident but declined to press charges because campus police told him it would only be a misdemeanor. But then Macias posted a bizarre, profanity-laced “SnatchAHat” video online, which eventually went viral, that showed her physically removing the hat from his head – and then verbally attacking him for promoting “genocide.” By showing that she took it off his person, the crime rose to the level of felony, Vitale said campus police told him.
And now, he says, he wants her arrested.
“Honestly, this isn’t me trying to get revenge on her,” he told Todd Starnes during a Fox News Radio interview, “this is me just trying to say: ‘Look, behavior like this is not tolerated in this country. There are individual rights and individual freedoms that we are granted as per the constitution, that everybody’s granted. It doesn’t matter what your beliefs are.’”
University chancellor Kim A. Wilcox released a statement afterward promoting “respectful dialogue” – though Vitale said it didn’t go far enough in condemning Macias’ behavior.
“Coequal to our dedication to mutual respect is our commitment to free speech and the free exchange of ideas,” the chancellor's statement said, according to the College Fix. “A university requires an environment where students and scholars can freely express ideas and pursue knowledge, while also promoting respectful dialogue among individuals or groups with opposing viewpoints.”
Vitale called Wilcox’s response “very disappointing.”
“UCR affirms its dedication to free speech, but [adds] free speech has to come under our shared values of mutual respect, which is not freedom of speech,” Vitale said. “The moment that you stop protecting speech that is controversial, is the moment that your right to speak your mind is taken away.”
A university spokesman told Fox New UC champions free speech – as long as it remains cordial. But he was vague on where it would draw the line.
“The university stands very strongly for free speech and its protections, and for a congenial dialogue on campus,” university spokesman John Warren said. “The students on our campus have used this episode to affirm their support for free expression, and a productive exchange of ideas.”
Some students on campus started a “Statement of Solidarity with Edith Macias.” The statement claims free speech has been “used as a dog whistle for the protection of white supremacist violence in the University of California system and elsewhere.”
The statement also claims that Macias has been “doxxed” and “harassed,” and they demand the university pay Macias’ rent, grant her amnesty, cover her legal fees, condemn white supremacist violence, and support a sanctuary campus.
Vitale dismisses the solidarity statement as a fringe group, but says he is “overwhelmed” by the support he’s received from across the country from people on both sides of the political aisle.
“This just goes to show,” he said, “that I think freedom of speech and individual rights are maybe just one thing that everybody in this country can rally around.”