Free Speech Monument, Too Free?

By: Lindsay Puccio
By: Lindsay Puccio

March 24, 2006

The new free speech monument on the Downtown Mall isn't even finished yet, but it's already causing a stir. It's supposed to be an outlet to voice opinions, however some community members are concerned others will misuse it.

While construction crews are busy building the First Amendment Monument, people have already started writing on the wall. The project designer, Rob Winstead, said he wants to give the public the ability to celebrate freedom of speech.

"I think that could be any form of expression," said Winstead.

Love notes and sentimental thoughts are what's on the wall now, but residents are worried that offensive material will also find it's way onto the monument.

"I think it's going to get too free. [There's] going to be a lot of things on there we are not going to want to read. I just think it's ridiculous," said Audrey Pugh.

As a mother of two daughters, Juli Anne Brouwer said she hopes the artists will keep it clean, but it wouldn't be a shocker if they don't. "You can't avoid that, it's going to be everywhere. If it's not on the wall, it's going to be on an overpass, or it's going to be on the locker room door, or it's going to be in the bathroom stall," said Juli Anne Brouwer.

No matter how outrageous or meaningful it is, the Thomas Jefferson Center for Free Expression will wipe it clean once a week.

In the meantime, everyone who passes by can monitor it. Winstead said you can wipe it off the chalkboard yourself or you can write something in response and start a discussion.

"I hope that lots of people will respond and say this is offensive and this is why, this is why I think this is inappropriate and hopefully we'll have a dialog about those things that we find offensive in our society," said Winstead.

If needed, the public can use the podium that will be placed next to the wall for spontaneous speeches.

The money for the project was raised through private donations. The monument is expected to be finished in late April.

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