Kyung Mi Lee
Posters supporting sexual assault victims, including those who have accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh ’87 LAW ’90 of sexual misconduct , were torn down from bulletin boards across campus on Saturday and Sunday.
The posters, which read “We Believe Christine Blasey Ford[,] Deborah Ramirez[,] Julie Swetnick[,] Anita Hill[,] Fernanda Lopez Aguilar[,] Naomi Wolf [and] All Survivors,” were torn down twice, at least once by Jack Palkovic DIV ’20, according to four people familiar with the incident who recognized Palkovic. Palkovic also drew media attention in February when he was assaulted while wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat during a protest against right-wing pundit Milo Yiannopoulos at the University of California, Berkeley.
Around 7 p.m. on Sunday, Kyung Mi Lee ’21 posted two photos on Overheard at Yale of Palkovic tearing down the poster by the Women’s Table. Students in the popular campus Facebook page Overheard at Yale were quick to identify Palkovic, posting links to articles from left-wing blogs that describe him as “alt-right” and “white nationalist.” Following Lee’s viral post, Gabriella Limón ’20 posted a video of an eight-minute confrontation between her and the man from Lee’s photo at the corner of College and Wall Streets, in which Palkovic argued that it was his First Amendment right to tear down the posters.
“They use up the whole board, they are public places, tearing down a sign is part of free speech,” Palkovic said in the video Limón posted on Overheard at Yale. “[The signs are] making a statement that you have to have this viewpoint, or else you are not within the orthodox view on campus. … You don’t have the right to put up signs, saying ‘we believe,’ using the possessive ‘we,’ a plural ‘we’ for everyone here. I don’t believe it, so I want to take it down because I want to disagree.”
Palkovic did not respond to requests for comment on Sunday night.
The signs, on four separate bulletin boards across campus, were posted Thursday by a group of undergraduates who organized the Wednesday rally against Kavanaugh’s confirmation. The two posters by the Women’s Table and High Street gate were torn down Saturday night, according to Abby Leonard ’21, co-president of Students Against Sexual Misconduct. But even after students re-posted the signs Sunday morning, the posters near William L. Harkness Hall and the Women’s Table were once again torn down Sunday afternoon. While Palkovic tore down posters adjacent to the Women’s Table, it remains unclear who removed the posters by the High Street Old Campus gate, the Women’s Center and William L. Harkness Hall.
As an undergraduate majoring in European history at the University of California, Berkeley, Palkovic was a member of the Berkeley College Republicans. During his time in the organization, Breitbart ran an article featuring a video he filmed while arguing with his anti-Trump peers, in which he expressed frustration at their criticism of his political views.
Palkovic also frequently posted controversial, alt-right messages on his Facebook page during college according to the website of the Northern California Anti-Racist Action, which describes itself as composed of “anti-fascists and anti-racists” from Northern California. His Facebook account is no longer publicly searchable.
“‘Racist’ is an anti-white racial slur,” Palkovic wrote as his Facebook intro, according to screenshots posted to the internet by the Northern California Anti-Racist Action. “Men and women are different. People are not equal. #Trump2016.”
Seven students interviewed by the News, almost all of whom were involved in the activism against Kavanaugh’s confirmation, said they were disturbed by Palkovic’s actions.
“The act of tearing those down, it’s physical and it’s violent, and though I’m angry, though I’m disappointed time and time again when these things happen, I’ve realized we have a community here, and it’s strong,” said Miranda Coombe ’21, who organized the rally in the wake of the allegations against Kavanaugh.
Anna Blech ’19, one of the students who originally hung the bulletin board displays, called the incident “horrible, but not surprising.” She said that Kavanaugh’s hearings have been filled with “angry, immature men deeply distressed by the idea that sexual assault survivors should be allowed to speak.”
She added that, given the events of the past weekend, the same could be said for Yale.
Leonard, who reposted the bulletin board display after it had been torn down, said groups of students offered their support in hanging up additional signs. She added that, in the wake of the weekend’s events, activists should now focus on supporting victims of sexual misconduct.
“As we go forward, it is important to focus our energy and time on uplifting survivors, not on giving more power and attention to those who least deserve it,” she said. “We believe all survivors of sexual misconduct.”
According to Blech, as of Sunday evening, 49 people have volunteered to reprint and replace the posters since they were torn down. The student activists have also received several donations to cover reprinting costs, Blech added.
Both Ford and Kavanaugh testified regarding the sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh before the Senate last Thursday.
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Clarification, October 2: This article has been updated to more clearly reflect Palkovic’s involvement in political events at the University of California, Berkeley and to elaborate on the political affiliations of online blogs that allege Palkovic’s connection to alt-right and white-nationalist political movements.