NY Court Rules Student’s ‘Don’t Tread On Me’ Social Media Post Was Racist


Brianna Lyman News and Commentary Writer
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A New York judge ruled Wednesday that Fordham University student Austin Tong’s two Instagram posts, which depicted him holding an AR-15 and a tribute to slain officer David Dorn, constituted harassment and threats.

“The court finds that the timing, and context of Tong’s Instagram posts justify the two foregoing inferences that Dean [of students] [Keith] Eldredge drew about Tong’s intent to harass and threaten his fellow students via his Instagram posts because of their opposing views regarding the BLM movement,” Appellate Term, First Department Justice Carol Edmead ruled.

Tong posted a picture on June 3 commemorating David Dorn, a retired black police officer killed during the riots in St. Louis. He captioned the photo “Y’all a bunch of hypocrites.”


View this post on Instagram


Y’all a bunch of hypocrites.

A post shared by Austin Tong (@comrademeow) on

In a second post from June 4, Tong held up an AR-15 on the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Tong, a Chinese immigrant, captioned the photo in part “Don’t tread on me.”


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Don’t tread on me. #198964 ????????????????

A post shared by Austin Tong (@comrademeow) on

Fordham found Tong guilty of “threats/intimidation” and “bias and/or hate crimes” and put Tong on probation, prohibiting him from participating in athletics or student groups or from visiting campus without permission. Tong promptly sued. (RELATED: Trump Looks To Force Campuses To Protect Free Speech)

Edmead agreed with Fordham in her ruling, noting that Tong failed to convince her that the slogan “‘don’t tread on me’ can be used in non-racist contexts.”

Edmead cited Dean Eldredge’s own research that said the Revolutionary War-era Gadsden flag featuring the “don’t tread on me” slogan has been “‘interpreted to convey racially-tinged messages in some contexts,’ including its use by persons associated with white-supremacist groups,” and therefore Eldredge could not reasonably “rule out the possibility … that [Tong] was merely using the Tiananmen Square anniversary as a way to veil his threats towards those who disagree with him.”

Tong told the Daily Caller he’s looking into other legal avenues.

“My lawyers and I have great confidence that justice will ultimately prevail, and we are looking at any possible legal steps ahead,” he said. “The fight is not over.”