Less than 48 hours after pro-liberty activist group Young Americans for Liberty (“YAL”) attended the signing of President Trump’s executive order protecting free speech on college campuses, one of their Chapter Officers, Peyton Lofton, received word that someone set his dorm room door on fire. This incident wasn’t the first time that Lofton had faced attacks due to his ideological views nor was it YAL’s.
As the largest college-based, pro-liberty organization, YAL is no stranger to conflict when it comes to free speech. In 2018 alone, the group overturned 41 unconstitutional speech codes on college campuses across the United States, putting them on many radars including that of the White House.
On March 15, 2018, YAL received an invitation to the White House for remarks on free speech followed by the signing of an executive order. The event was designed to shine a light on the “systemic free speech issues” on college campuses across the country. Immediately after receiving the news, activists excitedly took to social media and began sharing the news.
Twenty-four hours later, students started noticing flyers on and near the Tulane campus attacking the organization, according to Tulane YAL Chapter President Marcus Maldonado. The phrase “Young Americans For Liberty EXPOSED!” headlined the flyers and was accompanied by allegations of racism, misogyny, and intolerance, as well as handles for two social media accounts.
The following day, Lofton was doxed by one of the two accounts according to a press release from YAL. “Doxxing” is the researching and broadcasting of private or identifying information about an individual or organization via the internet.
Less than a week later, someone set Lofton’s dorm room door on fire around 12:20 a.m. He was reportedly not in the room when the fire started but his roommate Jackson Arnold was. The flames triggered the smoke alarm system which caused Arnold to head toward the door. Upon seeing the fire, he quickly put it out.
Later that day, Robert Money, 21; David Shelton, 20; and Naima Okami, 20 were booked by Tulane University police on allegations that they were responsible for the fire. According to Maldonado, Shelton and Money lived on the same dorm floor as the victim. Okami was reportedly visiting from Brown University.
Police did not immediately release how they were able to identify the accused, but Maldonado explained that footage from hallway surveillance cameras led to their identification and subsequent arrests. If convicted of aggravated arson, all three individuals could face between 6-20 years in prison.
In a statement released by Lofton, he said, “It’s a sad day in America when radical activists are lighting dorm room doors on fire because they disagree with you politically…This only encourages me to continue the battle to reach my classmates with the message of freedom.”
Maldonado echoed Lofton’s sentiments, “Discourse and dialogue are the only way to repair the political divides in society, and we look forward to working even harder to foster robust debate on campus.”
YAL is standing firmly behind Lofton. The organization sent out a press release highlighting his accomplishments with YAL including his role in getting Dirk Deaton elected in Missouri as part of the group’s Operation Win at the Door campaign.
The release also contained a statement from YAL President Cliff Maloney defending Lofton in which he said, “…the answer is to engage and discuss the ideas, not shame them online and light their door on fire. This type of violence must end.”