Cal Poly students, faculty and staff joined hands Wednesday in solidarity with high school students throughout San Luis Obispo County and across the nation to protest gun violence.
At least 150 people gathered on Cal Poly's Dexter Lawn beginning at 10 a.m., the appointed time students nationwide walked out of class to advocate for reform.
But they weren't the only ones to show up in protest.
An email sent to the Cal Poly College Republicans mailing list Tuesday evening described the walkout movement as a "little temper tantrum ... about gun control" and called on club members to wear gun holsters, pro-Second Amendment T-shirts "or just patriotic wear" to "show that not everyone on this campus is a Communist."
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The content of the email was made public on Facebook.
No students were seen wearing gun holsters during Wednesday morning's rally, though College Republicans Club President Katherine Rueckert said there were a couple of students doing so and more would be showing up. Rueckert was not wearing a holster, but rather a T-shirt supporting President Donald Trump.
Rueckert declined to say who wrote the email but said she took responsibility for its content. She said the "temper tantrum" was referring to "our own campus leftists" rather than the students of Parkland, Florida's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School — where one month ago a gunman killed 17 people — who initiated the nationwide protest.
Rueckert said her club has mourned the dead in Parkland "on our own terms" but accused activists of co-opting the tragedy to push for more gun control.
When asked about the email referring to walkout participants as "communists," Rueckert said the email was not intended for the general public but was "literally a rally to our own people."
However, several people took exception to the language choice.
A sign planted by protesters on Dexter Lawn read "Ban assault weapons. Does this make me a Communist?" and "Ban assault weapons. This doesn't make me a Communist!"
Student Gina Welisch said the timing of the College Republicans' protest was disturbing.
"It's not a temper tantrum. This is our lives," she said.
Welisch called the counter-protest a mockery of the 17 lives lost in Parkland. She said Wednesday's walkout was about protesting gun violence, not protesting for the Second Amendment.
"Today is not the day," she said.
Cal Poly spokesman Matt Lazier wrote in an email that the club consulted the University Police Department, who "counseled members that they should not put other objects in the holsters and that the holsters should be clearly visible — so that they would not be mistaken for actual firearms" which are prohibited on campus.
Lazier wrote that the university is required "to uphold free speech" and "how the College Republicans express themselves, within the context of the law, is not something the university can dictate."
Three weeks ago, Cal Poly students were set on edge when rumor spread online that somebody had threatened to commit a mass shooting at the university. That rumor later was ruled unfounded.