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Cleveland State University Pays $50,000 to Settle Free Speech Lawsuit

Cleveland State University has agreed to settle a free speech lawsuit with a multimedia artist for censoring a phrase on his sculpture that referenced President Donald Trump.

The phrase “BUILD A WALL OF PUSSIE’ was added by artist Billie Lawless to his 42-foot sculpture called The Politician: A Toy, in reference to Trump’s continued push for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, according to The Cleveland report.

The phrase replicated the president’s infamous use of the phrase “Grab them by the pussy” during the Access Hollywood TV show in 2005, when he claimed that he “can do anything” to women because he is “a star.”

On Thursday, the university agreed to pay Lawless $50,000, but the artist would have to move the sculpture from Cleveland’s campus and to an alternative location by July 24, 2019.

“Cleveland State University and Billie Lawless thank each other for their 10-year relationship during which CSU displayed The Politician: A Toy on its campus,” the university and Lawless said in a joint statement.

“The parties have worked together to amicably resolve their recent dispute. The Sculpture will remain on CSU’s campus until mid-summer 2018. Any statements on the Sculpture are attributable only to the Artist, and do not represent the official position of the University.”

Lawless, who filed the lawsuit in January, alleged university workers of covering the Trump reference with a vinyl banner from a homecoming event. He alleged the university of a contract breach and violation of his rights under the First Amendment and the Visual Artists Rights Act.

The contract, which was renewed twice, first until 2017 and then until 2020, prohibited the university to “modify, disassemble or demolish” the sculpture. The banner covering the Trump reference was removed in early February.

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