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VCU Student Harassed After Right-Wing Media Reports Anti-Police Views

Protesters
All last summer, VCU students like Taylor Maloney marched with the broader Richmond community to protest police violence against Black Americans. (Photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM News)

A student at Virginia Commonwealth University is receiving threats and insults online after their political speech was made the focus of a right-wing media article.

Taylor Maloney, a 20-year old student and the president of the VCU Student Government Association, says they’ve received hundreds of negative comments on social media criticizing their anti-police comments and communist political views.

The article was published by Canadian outlet The Post Millennial, a conservative website that claims “to accurately and adequately report Canadian news events.” As of the time this story was published, the article had received over 15,000 views, and hundreds of comments on social media.

“In terms of a journalistic standpoint, it's definitely just a soft dox hit piece that they try to get out for shock value because they have a certain audience,” Maloney told VPM.

The story features a mugshot of Maloney and screenshots of their tweets where they advocate for killing police officers and damaging private property in response to racial injustice. Maloney says while the tweets may seem “very vulgar or very abrasive,” they’re in response to what they consider a bigger issue.

“It's a new Black person I watch die every single week,” Maloney said. “I still need an outlet to be angry about that, and I still need space to say that I don't think this is right.”

Maloney
Maloney photographed at a racial justice demonstration. (Image courtesy of Taylor Maloney)

Claire Gastañaga, the executive director of the Virginia branch of the American Civil Liberties Union, says some of Maloney’s comments online have been “abhorrent and indefensible,” but adds that the statements remain protected free speech under the Constitution. “We will continue to defend their right to express their views even if we disagree with them,” she said.

Gastañaga also questions the intentions of the author behind the Post Millennial article. “We need to ask why a Canadian news company whose mission is to ‘report Canadian news events’ is interested in the political views and personal information of a U.S. college student,” she said.

One of the authors behind the article is writer Andy Ngo, a controversial right-leaning activist with a history of encouraging his large base to harass left-leaning political opponents. VPM spoke to one activist Ngo has targeted about the experience. They asked us to only use their screen name, Jules, for fear of retribution.

In July of last year, Jules said she blocked about 1,000 Twitter users over the course of a few days because they were sending insults and threatening to kill and sexually assault her. She says it all began when Ngo tweeted a screenshot of one of her replies to him.

“He will blast our names, pictures and personal information to his large fascist following. These people that follow him do the majority of the bullying and harassment, he just feeds them our information. It's really horrifying,” she said.

Gastañaga says in Maloney’s case, Ngo has directed the harassment their way because they represent a challenge to the political status quo.

“Emerging leaders who are not straight white men with mainstream political views are scrutinized, targeted and harassed every day with a higher level of intensity,” she said. “It is clear that Taylor was targeted by a well-known and active provocateur who wanted to take away their power.”

VPM reached out to the Post Millennial with a request for comment and did not hear back by the time of publication. 

In a statement, a spokesman for Virginia Commonwealth University did not address Ngo’s article or the harassment, but condemned Maloney’s online comments.

“Calls for violence and hateful language do not reflect the position or values of VCU. The Student Government Association is a student-run organization. Neither the organization nor any of its members or officers speaks or acts on behalf of VCU,” said VCU Spokesman Mike Porter.

Porter added that VCU offers students who are facing threats assistance through Student Affairs or the university’s police department. Maloney says they have not received any correspondence from the university since the article was published.