On Wednesday morning, Clifford Durand, an 18-year-old student at St. John’s University in New York, presented a challenge to his Twitter followers: He would “smash” a fellow student’s laptop — which was adorned with a Donald Trump sticker — if his photo of her got 7,000 retweets. What followed was a social media battle in which the post went viral and the two students ended up in a physical altercation after class.
Friends of Durand claim the post was a joke, but when it gained steam, garnering more than 20,000 retweets, it caught the attention of the pictured student, Brianna Algazali, who confronted Durand in a hallway after class. She asked him to take the tweet down, and one student told the New York Daily News that Durand replied, “Make me.”
That’s when other students say things got physical. “She raised her voice and she threw her drink on him,” a friend of Durand told the New York Daily News. “He looked like he was in shock. I went toward him to hold him back.”
Witnesses say Durand struck Algazali after being hit with the drink, and Durand himself tweeted that she “got shoved.” His Twitter account has since been suspended.
Algazali spoke to campus public safety after the incident, and Durand was interviewed that afternoon. The university has not commented specifically on the matter, and it’s unclear whether either student will face disciplinary action.
Many people posted on St. John’s University’s Facebook page, most calling for Durand’s punishment. One person wrote, “Honestly the students should demand a public apology for what has happened — innocent students getting physically assaulted by power-hungry males who seek to dominate the political consensus on the school. It is an outrage that the attacker has not been expelled — this is 2016!”
Others have rushed to Durand’s defense on Twitter, saying he threatened a laptop, not a person, and noting that both students interacted physically. Meanwhile, support of Algazali has surged with the hashtag #ExpelClifford.
The university did respond with tweets that addressed the confrontation, posting, “Thank you everyone who reported the incident to us. This type of behavior will not be tolerated. Public Safety is handling the situation,” followed by, “We hear your concerns. Safety is our top priority. Any student in violation of our Code of Conduct is subject to our conduct process.”