A college student who stole a classmate’s ‘Make America Great Again’ hat and demanded its wearer be punished could face felony charges in the incident.
At issue is an incident last week in which Macias took the bright red MAGA hat right off Vitale’s head during a campus event, an incident that was recorded.
University of California, Riverside student Edith Macias grabbed the hat off of Matthew Vitale’s head on September 27, documenting the incident in a profanity-laced video.
Vitale alerted authorities after the incident but declined to press charges because campus police told him it would only be a misdemeanor. But then Macias posted a bizarre, profanity-laced “SnatchAHat” video online, which eventually went viral, that showed her physically removing the hat from his head – and then verbally attacking him for promoting “genocide.” By showing that she took it off his person, the crime rose to the level of felony, Vitale said campus police told him.
Now, Vitale is pressing charges. After campus police informed Vitale that Macias’ allegedly stealing his hat would constitute a felony theft charge because she took it off of his head, he decided to take a stand.
“I do want to send a message,” Vitale explained. “I am not vindictive, I am not vengeful, but people especially in my generation need to realize you can’t do things like this because you don’t like what someone is saying or wearing.”
“Honestly, this isn’t me trying to get revenge on her,” he told Todd Starnes during a Fox News Radio interview, “this is me just trying to say: ‘Look, behavior like this is not tolerated in this country. There are individual rights and individual freedoms that we are granted as per the constitution, that everybody’s granted. It doesn’t matter what your beliefs are.’”
Vitale’s video received over 4.5 million views before it was removed from Facebook. Vitale reuploaded it, but it has since been mirrored on various YouTube channels.
University officials have been vague in their public statements about the incident, speaking of a need to balance respect with free speech.
‘The university stands very strongly for free speech and its protections, and for a congenial dialogue on campus,’ university spokesman John Warren told Fox. ‘The students on our campus have used this episode to affirm their support for free expression, and a productive exchange of ideas.’
Vitale, who stated in the video he is half-Nicaraguan, rejects Macias’ claims that wearing the hat amounts to a form of hate speech.