A University of Missouri photojournalist on freelance assignment for ESPN found himself in a confrontation with student activists Monday as they tried to ban him from the tent city they'd set up on campus in response to recent racial strife there, the New York Times reports. A tense video taken by Mark Schierbecker shows—despite demands by the Concerned Student 1950 group that Tim Tai leave them be in their "safe space"—a resolute Tai standing firm, noting his First Amendment rights and saying, "I have a job to do." As activists started walking, forcing him back, Schierbecker was left near the tents, where he was met by a woman now IDed as Melissa Click, an assistant professor of mass media, who, per the Washington Post, told him to "get out," appeared to grab for his camera, then called out to protesters, "Who wants to help me get this reporter out of here? I need some muscle over here." Gawker notes that just days earlier, Click had appealed to get the students' message "into the national media."
Tai tweeted Monday evening, "Wow. Didn't mean to become part of the story. Just trying to do my job." His feed has been flooded with support for his "professionalism" during the incident, which Conor Friedersdorf of the Atlantic says activists provoked when they "weaponized" the idea of "safe spaces." Early Tuesday morning, Tai tried to turn the story back to the original issues, tweeting, "I'm a little perturbed at being part of the story, so maybe let's focus some more reporting on systemic racism in higher ed institutions." Meanwhile, the Observer notes that the hashtag #MelissaClickMustGo has popped up, while a Fusion reporter tweeted a photo of a "teachable moment" flier said to have been passed around Tuesday morning that welcomed the media as "important to tell our story" and having the same First Amendment rights as activists do. (Two major Mizzou administrators have stepped down because of the tensions on campus.)