Student penalized for posting a legally-owned gun with the words “Don’t tread on me.”

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Austin Tong has sued Fordham University

A student’s threatened expulsion because he legally posted a photo of himself holding a legally owned rifle in a legal fashion shows how people “feeling threatened” has become grounds to deprive others of their right to free speech.

Of course, when your speech can be silenced when anyone claims to feel a negative emotion, you have no right to speech at all.

Austin Tong, a student at Fordham University in New York City, is suing his school after being penalized over two political social media posts he made in June 2020, one of which pictured him holding a legally owned rifle, court papers allege.

According to the New York Post, Tong made a June 3 Instagram post with a photo of retired St. Louis Police Captain David Dorn, a black police officer slain by a looter during riots supposedly sparked by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. He said he made the post as a comment on the lack of media outrage over the killing

Later, on June 4, the 21-year-old Chinese-American student posted a photo of himself holding a semiautomatic rifle for which he has a license. The photo was captioned “Don’t tread on me. #198964” to mark the 31st anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, his July 2020 Manhattan Supreme Court lawsuit states.

The posts prompted a hearing and inquiry by Assistant Vice Principal and Dean of Students Keith Eldredge less than a week later, with Eldredge claiming that “members of the Fordham community felt threatened” by them, the court papers claim.

Eldredge issued sanctions against Tong and threatened expulsion, the suit alleges. Tong is now asking a judge to annul those measures, saying his posts are free speech protected under school policy and the U.S. Constitution.

Tong said during a June 10 hearing that he’s “sympathetic to the movement for racial equality,” and his post about Dorn was “to speak out against tyranny and oppression, while noting that the phrase has been used by various branches of the United States military,” according to court papers.

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