The University of California, Riverside student who went viral in September for filming a rant using a fellow student’s “Make America Great Again” hat has been charged with petty theft, according to police.
Fox News reported that Edith Macias was charged with a misdemeanor offense of petty theft for allegedly stealing Matthew Vitale’s hat in the Sept. 27 incident. If convicted, Macias could face up to a year in jail.
Vitale, a member of the campus College Republicans chapter, told Fox News that he did not press charges against Macias out of spite, but rather to assert his rights as a student.
“I’m not doing this to be punitive or see her rot in jail,” he said. “I want people my age to realize that things like this aren’t tolerated in America. We just want to have our rights guaranteed and that’s what it’s all about.”
Vitale added that after reading a statement from Riverside’s Chancellor Kim A. Wilcox he didn’t think that Riverside took the theft or his broader concerns seriously.
“I get the feeling that the school didn’t take it very seriously,” Vitale said.
“I’m very excited that the DA’s office took it seriously,” he added. “We can’t thank UCPD enough.”
The university released a statement affirming its commitment to free speech after Vitale’s viral video in September.
“Coequal to our dedication to mutual respect is our commitment to free speech and the free exchange of ideas,” the statement read. “A university requires an environment where students and scholars can freely express ideas and pursue knowledge, while also promoting respectful dialogue among individuals or groups with opposing viewpoints.”
Macias is seen in the profanity-laced video carrying the hat into a university office to file a protest about Vitale allegedly wearing it into a conference.