Columbia Responds:

Here's a statement from Columbia's President, Lee Bollinger (who is also a noted First Amendment scholar):

President Lee C. Bollinger's Statement on Freedom of Speech October 6, 2006, 4:30 p.m.

Columbia University has always been, and will always be, a place where students and faculty engage directly with important public issues. We are justifiably proud of the traditions here of intellectual inquiry and vigorous debate. The disruption on Wednesday night that resulted in the termination of an event organized by the Columbia College Republicans in Lerner Hall represents, in my judgment, one of the most serious breaches of academic faith that can occur in a university such as ours.

Of course, the University is thoroughly investigating the incident, and it is critically important not to prejudge the outcome of that inquiry with respect to individuals. But, as we made clear in our University statements on both Wednesday night and Thursday, we must speak out to deplore a disruption that threatens the central principle to which we are institutionally dedicated, namely to respect the rights of others to express their views.

This is not complicated: Students and faculty have rights to invite speakers to the campus. Others have rights to hear them. Those who wish to protest have rights to do so. No one, however, shall have the right or the power to use the cover of protest to silence speakers. This is a sacrosanct and inviolable principle.

It is unacceptable to seek to deprive another person of his or her right of expression through actions such as taking a stage and interrupting the speech. We rightly have a visceral rejection of this behavior, because we all sense how easy it is to slide from our collective commitment to the hard work of intellectual confrontation to the easy path of physical brutishness. When the latter happens, we know instinctively we are all threatened.

We have extensive University policies governing the actions of members of this community with respect to free speech and the conduct of campus events. Administrators began identifying those involved in the incident as it transpired and continue to investigate specific violations of University policies to ensure full accountability by those found to be responsible.

University personnel are also evaluating event management practices that are specifically intended to help event organizers, participants and protestors maintain a safe environment in which to engage in meaningful and sometimes contentious debate across the spectrum of academic and political issues. These are some of the many steps we intend to take in the weeks ahead to address this matter in our community.

Let me reaffirm: In a society committed to free speech, there will inevitably be times when speakers use words that anger, provoke, and even cause pain. Then, more than ever, we are called on to maintain our courage to confront bad words with better words. That is the hallmark of a university and of our democratic society. It is also one of our central safeguards against the impulses of intolerance that always threaten to engulf our commitment to proper respect for every person.

I'm pleased to see this response, and I hope it will be followed up with suitable action against the thugs.

Thanks to commenter Micah for the pointer to the statement.

Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
A very sensible response.
10.6.2006 9:07pm
President Bollinger's statement is a nice start, but he should go one step further -- invite the speaker back to campus and give a personal introduction, standing next to the speaker throughout the speech.

I've heard Bollinger speak on the First Amendment (which I believe is his area of scholarship) and he should use this as an example to show how serious he really is about protecting that right.

This is one of the most descpicable incidents I've heard of in a long time. The students who assaulted the speaker should be expelled from Columbia and prosecuted by the Manhattan D.A. And the smart one with the quote in the NY Sun should be forced to sit through a long seminar on the meaning on the First Amendment.

For what it's worth, I consider myself a liberal and favor an open border immigration policy.
10.6.2006 9:16pm
Fine, assuming he really intends to do something about it.

It can be difficult (vide 1968) when faced with a mob "full of passionate intensity."
10.6.2006 9:17pm
Glenn W. Bowen (mail):

there will inevitably be times when speakers use words that anger, provoke, and even cause pain. Then, more than ever, we are called on to maintain our courage to confront bad words with better words.

sooooo... they passed up a chance to beat Gilchrist down with better words?

kind of a left-handrd response.
10.6.2006 10:00pm
Glenn W. Bowen (mail):
r=e PIMF
10.6.2006 10:00pm
Daryl Herbert (www):
I'm pleased to see this response, and I hope it will be followed up with suitable action against the thugs.

But that's just it. Mr. Bollinger knows that if he hits all the right notes now, attention will die down and he can get away with giving a few of the ringleaders a slap on the wrist (when everyone who took to the stage to disrupt the speaker should be expelled)

Expulsions would send a real message about free speech. The commies weren't there to stop this particular speaker from giving this particular speech. They want to intimidate future speakers, intimidate future listeners, and increase the cost of putting on a controversial speaker in the first place (College Republicans had to pay for the university police to be there, for instance).

That's why, after the event, they surrounded a student and harassed him. They already stopped the speech... yet they continued to act like thugs. And they will continue to act like thugs in the future.

Note how Bollinger refused to condemn the constant interruptions of the first speaker. He only condemned the rushing of the stage, and everything else was very vague. He might be a noted first amendment scholar, but he's also a university administrator. We know where they stand on free speech issues.

Prove the cynics wrong, Mr. Bollinger. Stand up for free speech, and back your words with real actions.
10.6.2006 10:26pm
Daryl Herbert (www):
invite the speaker back to campus and give a personal introduction, standing next to the speaker throughout the speech

I don't think Mr. Bollinger should have to introduce or stand next to him. But inviting him back is definitely the right move, and the university should eat the costs. They should even pay Gilchrist a speaker's fee and travel fees. He may have been willing to do it once for free, but that doesn't mean his time is worthless.
10.6.2006 10:35pm
Screw expulsions. Assault convictions. Anyone who broke my glasses would be looking at a court date.
10.6.2006 10:35pm
"The commies weren't there to stop this particular speaker from giving this particular speech."

You have to get your evil doers straight Daryl. Ronald Reagan whipped the commies years ago, and now Putin is our ally. I think it's Islamofacists or Democrats that are out to get us now.
10.6.2006 10:38pm
Nobody Special:

"You have to get your evil doers straight Daryl. Ronald Reagan whipped the commies years ago, and now Putin is our ally."

That may be, but when members of the International Socialist Organization, which is, in fact, a communist entity based on Trotsky's theories, are involved, I think it is fair to say that at least some of these people really are "commies."
10.6.2006 10:45pm
keypusher (mail):

This is not complicated: Students and faculty have rights to invite speakers to the campus. Others have rights to hear them. Those who wish to protest have rights to do so. No one, however, shall have the right or the power to use the cover of protest to silence speakers. This is a sacrosanct and inviolable principle.

Bollinger's statement is clear and unambiguous. Many university presidents would not be this forthright. Good for him!
10.6.2006 10:54pm
That may be, but when members of the International Socialist Organization, which is, in fact, a communist entity based on Trotsky's theories, are involved, I think it is fair to say that at least some of these people really are "commies."

There you go with that "pre 9/11" thinking.
10.6.2006 11:02pm
U.Va. 2L (mail):
Here's hoping Bollinger stands behind his words.
10.6.2006 11:45pm
John (mail):
U.Va. 2L says "Here's hoping Bollinger stands behind his words." What words, exactly? That he will expel the students who rushed the stage? Oh, he didn't say that. Or much of anything else.

This is typical academic B.S. that has regrettably suckered E.V. and others, as it was intended to do.

The administration must know already from its facebook review or otherwise who the bad guys are. It will never throw them out, however, or do much more in the way of action as opposed to spluttering the usual word salad.

The school's overall cowardice was manifest before, during the Middle Eastern Studies investigation. Why does anyone expect anything different from these leftyloons now?
10.7.2006 12:36am
Moral Hazard (mail):
I might taken Bollinger's words more seriously if Columbia hadn't disinvited the Iranian president from speaking due to pressure, suspended the men's ice hockey team for a flyer and if Columbia didn't have a "red light" speech code.

He may be a "noted first ammendment scholar", but he has no love for free speech.
10.7.2006 12:46am
Nice words.

But I doubt the follow-up will measure up. He's good at the pleasant words thing.
10.7.2006 1:14am
jso (mail):
Bollinger's words may be meaningless to the speaker he should be defending. However I give him some credit for risking his reputation in the eyes of the radicals who inhabit his university, and all other universities. There sure do seem to be a great number of leftist thugs around the country.
10.7.2006 1:21am
fishbane (mail):
He's doing the right thing. The thugs on the left don't justify the thugs on the right, and it would serve everyone if bad through criminal behaviour in the service of politics stopped. Of course, both sides are still doing it, so... well, we have a way to go.

But Kudos to Bollinger. Contra some folks posting here, he nailed it.
10.7.2006 2:45am
A very pretty oped piece.

Considering the alleged dedication of universities, especially The Holy Ivy League Schools, to freedom of speech and inquiry, having let the environment that allowed this assault on speech and inquiry to develop, shouldn't Bollinger be required to resign in shame? Wasn't this, in fact, much worse than Summers at Harvard, and, indeed, unlike Summers, aimed at the heart of a university?
10.7.2006 3:27am
Personally, I won't be satisfied till somebody gets a public execution. Barring that, it's just a bunch of words.
10.7.2006 4:02am
A. Zarkov (mail):
The poltroonish behavior by university administrators in dealing with student radicals emerged in the 1960s. One incident at Cornell (as told by Alan Bloom in his book Closing of the American Mind) is particularly telling. A black student (Alan Keyes) had his life threatened by a black professor because he (Keyes) refused to participate in a demonstration. The Provost at Cornell, while bothered by the incident, refused to discipline anyone. According to Bloom “He [the Provost] added that no university in the country could expel radical black students, or dismiss the faculty members who incited them …” Later in 1969 black students armed with guns seized control of a campus building. The stage for that kind of behavior was set at Columbia in 1968 when students seized control of the administrative building inaccurately called “Low Library.”

Tonight I saw two Columbia students trying to justify their thuggish behavior on television. They felt they had given Gilchrist 45 minutes to speak, and had every right to rush the stage with their banner. They also claim Gilchrist’s supporters threw the first punch. It was clear that they don’t believe in free speech when they disapprove of the speaker. We should not be surprised at this attitude as Columbia itself has set the precedent with campus speech codes.
10.7.2006 4:18am
Kevin P. (mail):
President Bollinger's words are admirable and a good first step.

Now let's see if he can walk the walk. If Columbia is serious about this, I will expect to see expulsions and prosecutions.

If not, sorry, it's just talk.
10.7.2006 6:31am
Federal Dog:
Words are dirt cheap. Bollinger will do exactly nothing.
10.7.2006 8:51am
rightwingprof (mail) (www):
Why would you be pleased by this response? It's disingenous. The police stood there and watched, and did nothing. Columbia's climate of PC groupthink is solely responsible for this travesty. This would not have happened at my campus, no matter how moonbatty they are. When speakers such as Coulter or Adams come to my university, hecklers are immediately ejected, and had an assault begun, the criminals would have been arrested on the spot.

I am disgusted by this man's response.
10.7.2006 11:03am
johnt (mail):
Standard 1st Amend. boilerplate. You press a button under your armpit and the crap spills out. Bollinger and others had absolutely no idea this would happen given who the speakers were ? The security guards stood by and did nothing and we're left with a recorded message.
I bet Bollinger's chest swelled both with pride and self importance when he spit this out, but still, actions speak louder than leftist academic palaver.
This attack does seem to be part of a growing trend in the left, something beyond shouting down and verbal harassment. I wonder what's up?
10.7.2006 11:07am
Moral Hazard, what is it that makes Columbia's speech policies "red light"? I followed that link, and the only two things they had pointed out dealt with sexual harassment and junk e-mail. Neither of them seemed that out of line to me.
10.7.2006 11:52am
John_R (mail):
I'd like to point out that Bollinger's statement was released at 4:30p.m. yesterday, it may be a response to Hizzoner Bloomberg's denouncing Columbia yesterday. I'm just throwing out the possibility that there is significant political heat coming down on Columbia.

Speaking of Bloomberg, I'd like to know what EV thinks about his suits against those gun dealers.
10.7.2006 12:06pm
BenMasel (mail):
I've done my share (or more) of leftish heckling, and, after trial (and error,) settled on a modus operandi which distinguishes between commentary and 'shouting down.'

So long as the featured speaker is actually speaking, don't interrupt. A pause for breath opens the floor for a brief (5-15 second) interjection.

I'm unaware of caselaw parsing the distinction, and draw these limits on esthetic values. The Speaker gets to have their say, the unfriendlies in the audience a chance at counter-narrative.

"Taking over" the stage is always counterproductive. If you don't have the theatrical chops to steal the scene from your seat, leave the job to someone who does.

Madison, WI
10.7.2006 12:46pm
Archon (mail):
Although I am not a First Amendment expert; I would assume a lecture, absent some unusual audience participation scheme, would be a non-public forum. The planners could establish any kind of rules or regulations as long as they were reasonable and viewpoint nuetral. This means the organizers could probably remove hecklers or disrupters as long as it wasn't policy to only remove all hecklers and not just ones expressing a certain viewpoint.

I never understood why people, especially leftists, felt compelled to attend a lecture only to heckle the speaker or disrupt the event. Is the left wing of today so intolerant and insecure that they must not allow anyone to challenge their ideology? Are left wing students today so immature that they can't sit through a 30 minute lecture without shouting out insults?

Why go to a lecture just to disrupt it? Maybe you could sit there and broaden your horizons by listening to opposing ideas. If you are so immature and insecure in your beliefs that you can't listen to opposing ideas, I suggest you stay at home or get your own forum and protest.
10.7.2006 3:48pm
Kevin Murphy:
Assuming that Columbia does try to expel some of the students, does anyone want to bet they actually get expelled? I find it more likely that Bollinger would be kicked out for trying.
10.7.2006 3:54pm
Archon... if only.

These leftists do not believe in free speech. They believe that speech that is "oppressive", "hateful", "demeaning" etc. (as defined by them) has no right to be expressed.

I have heard this POV countless times from their mouths at various meetings, etc. This sort of leftism is the ultimate paternalism (and maternalism for that matter). They do not believe that the targets of (so called) hate speech are mature enough to handle criticism - so they will silence the offenders themselves.

The is a great site for caselaw examples where over and over, the left has attempted to stifle free speech by labeling it hateful etc. It's not 'free speech' to them, it's "hate speech".

10.7.2006 6:43pm
Serenity Now (mail) (www):
Ben Masel, thanks for copying your comments from Althouse's thread and pasting them here. If you want to practice your ctrl-v skills on more Columbia/Minuteman-related blogs posts, try these.

Why am I not surprised that someone who has done his "share (or more) of leftish heckling" is a comment spammer ...
10.7.2006 7:13pm
With video now spreading across the net, it appears as though the first protestors occupied the far end of the stage from where Gilchrist was speaking. Gilchrist seemed bemused by it all until a handful of what I'm guessing are College Republicans jumped up on stage and rushed the protestors. Until that point, there was a campus official (looked like security in a suit) standing behind the protesters, and his reaction suggests there was no violence at first.

Looks to me like there is blame to go around here.
1. The protestors should not have climbed on stage or tried to shout down the speaker.
2. College Republicans should not have escalated it to the point of violence.
10.7.2006 8:32pm
lucia (mail) (www):
Angus, are you looking at the video at powerblogs?

To my eyes and ears it appear at second 9, something is already happening on the left side of the stage. The speaker takes off his glasses to see what the heck is happening. (I'm guessing people have already jumped on the stage.)

Around second 15, a group of people including someone in a white t-shirt jumps up on the stage in front of the speaker. (I'm guessing these are the Republicans.)

The camera then pans left to show the entire left half of the stage filled with people, some of whom have raised arms and are moving them around. Meanwhile, more and more people seem to be jumping up on the left and are moving to the right.

By second 27 the camera pulls back and a group of what are likely to be the Republicans are surrounding the speaker. This group is looking around in some confusion and filling a quite small gap between the pulsing throng of protestors on the left and the speaker. They don't appear to be rushing anyone.

Meanwhile the group on the left is getting bigger and bigger, moving to the right, gesticulating, shouting and trying to occupy the full stage. The space between the Republicans and the protestors is getting very small-- primarily because the crowd on the left is moving to the right. (If they continue, they would, ultimately displace the speaker and the Republicans. I'm not quite sure where the speaker might be able to go? Leap into the audience into the crowd? )

Eventually, the crowds do meet,. It appears things got physical. But what I'm not seeing is the small groupsurrounding the speaker "rushing" the group on the left! If this rushing incident happened, the camera appears to have missed it. (Or, I'm not understanding when you think it happened!)
10.7.2006 10:26pm
Link to the video:

At 12 seconds, two men near the speaker jump up next to the podium just before the camera shifts to the protest. One has black slacks/black shirt (call him blackie) while the other has a white shirt and baseball hat (call him ballcap). Blackie looks an awful lot like the College Republican interviewed at the end of the clip.

Camera focuses on protest for next several seconds, then pulls back at 27 seconds. Blackie and ballcap are between Gilchrist and the protestors. At 30 seconds, Blackie goes over to protestors and exchanges words, then tries to rip a banner out of their hands. He gets in a wrestling match with them. Ballcap then rushes over, pushes one of the protestors from behind, and starts shoving.

At that point, the camera spins out of control.
10.8.2006 12:05am
lucia (mail) (www):
I've looks at this over and over, and I still don't see what you are seeing.

When Blacky and ballcap are standing between the protestors, I can see ballcap looking around as though he is trying to make sure no one can lunge up at the speaker form in front, to the right or left. I see a guy in black with a white handkerchief walk over slowly toward the protestors. Then, the guy in black becomes nearly invisible to me because people shift around plus the curtain is black. I can't see what the heck happens with Blackie. Then, I see the guy in the white t-shirt walk forward, lean down and pull someone who had fallen out of the crowd. That person was wearing black.

Then, the crowds are still not hitting each other. Then the camera pans wildly.

I'm still not seeing anything I could call "rushing" by the Republicans and certainly not blackie or ballcap.

(I am by the way, absolutely not in favor of the minutemen and I'm in favor of easing immigration.)
10.8.2006 10:08am
rightwingprof (mail) (www):
"College Republicans should not have escalated it to the point of violence."

That's absurd. Had the campus police done their job instead of standing there like idiots, would you have accused them of "escalating the violence"?

Utterly absurd.
10.8.2006 1:53pm

I call them like I see them. I've watched the video several times, and what I see is a bunch of obnoxious but nonviolent protestors who climbed on the stage. The only pushing and shoving I saw on the video came from College Republicans.
10.8.2006 2:05pm
Larry the Librarian (mail):
A. Zarkov:

The stage for that kind of behavior was set at Columbia in 1968 when students seized control of the administrative building inaccurately called “Low Library.”

It's called Low Library because it was a library from about 1901 till the 1930s, when Butler Library opened. See this page for more details about the buildings. When I was at Columbia, I always remember its being called Low Library, even though other buildings (dorms, academic buildings) were known by their bare names (e.g. John Jay or Schermerhorn).

I should also point out to commenters who doubt Bollinger's will that, at least when I was at Columbia, the President of the University did not have the authority unilaterally to expel students. The University's rules of conduct required a trial-like procedure for that sort of thing, and I don't remember who had sentencing authority. The relevant material is here at PDF page 4, print page 69. (I just read the rules, and I think the sentencing authority belongs to the person who hears and decides the charges but that the president has the powers of review and clemency. The right to increase the sanction is explicitly denied to the appellate authority but not to the President). In other words, if the students remain at the University, it might not be Bollinger's fault.

But who has time for details?
10.8.2006 4:00pm
lucia (mail) (www):
I don't see any Republicans pushing and shoving people. I do see protestors pushing the Republican who you refer to as Blackie. After he falls, the one you call ball cap seems to enter the crowd, in the process, he places hands on people shoulders, approaches "blackie" and fishes him out.
10.8.2006 4:02pm
William Oliver (mail) (www):
A word of caution. Video can be very misleading, as was shown in the Rodney King tape years ago. Video, particularly video of chaotic scenes, tend to be more like Rorshach tests; people see what they want to see because they fill in the blanks with their assumptions. Doing a really decent forensic analysis of a video is a pretty labor intensive activity.

As to the statement, it's nice but doesn't mean very much. Words without action are counterproductive; just look at the UN.
10.8.2006 7:16pm
I think Oliver is correct about video and one's own assumptions. Lucia, what I see in the same scene is Blackie getting in a tug-o-war over the banner after trying to pull it away from the people holding it, slipping, then Ballcap coming and pushing protestors from behind to help Blackie. If you watch the longer clip I linked to, you can also see Ballcap hitting a female protestor in the head with a part of the now torn banner.
10.8.2006 7:21pm
More footage here. Univision had TV cameras rolling with much better picture. You can see Blackie in his tug-o-war with the protestors over the banner. Also you can clearly see Ballcap kick a student in the head.
10.8.2006 7:39pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Larry the Librarian:

Thanks for the info. Actually I know the history of the Low Library building, I just wanted to point out to readers not familiar with Columbia that this building wasn’t used as a library in 1968. At that time I was working up the street in a place that used to be part of Columbia, but later became independent. As such I worked with Columbia graduate students, and some faculty, so we followed the events closely.

The Columbia administration was slow to act in 1968, and when they finally decided to call in the police they (the police) looked overly brutal on television. Even a small cut to the head or face bleeds profusely, so it looked like the protestors were badly injured when they weren’t. In any case, Columbia handed a propaganda victory to the protestors.

I remember those days vividly, and when my daughter got accepted to Columbia, I encouraged her not to go, and she went to another Ivy League school. It wasn’t just the protests; it was the horrible way the physics and engineering departments treated students, and the general slummy conditions of the neighborhood.

A good analysis of the whole incident, and the political forces at play can be found in an architectural history of New York City written and edited by Stern.
10.8.2006 8:53pm
Isn't this the same blog on which David Bernstein posted repeatedly against Columbia allowing a speech by the President of Iran?

Commenter "whit" should run his thoughts by Prof Bernstein: "These leftists do not believe in free speech. They believe that speech that is "oppressive", "hateful", "demeaning" etc. (as defined by them) has no right to be expressed."

I never knew Berstein was a leftist!
10.8.2006 11:21pm
Prof Volokh, perhaps you can square your colleague's comments on Columbia and Ahmedinejad in Sept 24-ish posts, and what is obviously objected to in this instance. Of course, there's the obvious difference of not violently disrupting a speech. In Bernstein's case, it always seems to be the power to quell speech ex ante.
10.8.2006 11:30pm
farmer56 (mail):

So you think any thug that takes over a country has a right to free speech? Maybe the President of Iran could explain how he has rights not afforded his own people. Maybe the Right to Life group would bring in a speaker at George Washington Unniversity from China and advocate drowning a female child at birth, or steralization of the female after the birth of 1st boy. Free speech is a great thing
10.9.2006 10:32am
Houston Lawyer:
I believe the College Republicans would have been within their rights to pummel the group that took the stage. I would grant the same rights to a left-wing group that brought in a speaker where the College Republicans rushed the stage.

I recall the demonstrators who rushed the commodities exchange in London. The commodities traders, who apparently are from predominantly blue-collar backgrounds, beat the snot out of the protestors. I laughed out loud and no one felt sorry for those who took a well-deserved beating.
10.9.2006 12:03pm

The animus you direct toward the various speakers demonstrates the need for free speech. Obviously, the violent protesters here feel the same way about gun-toting, xenophobic, self-appointed militias policing our borders.

The point of my comments was to raise the question of how one squares the notion that one type of speech that provokes hatred gets valued more highly than another. The first reponse, I would assume, would be that I am engaging in moral relativism here. I'm not. I personally feel the president of Iran is more evil than the Minutemen -- far more evil.

However, this isn't a discussion about government policies or military action. This is a discussion about how bad it was for one group to attempt to silence the speech of a group with which it disagrees.

I was just pointing out the incongruity of that notion with most of David Bernstein's posts that advocate the chilling of speech.
10.9.2006 12:24pm

The film and the depicted tug-of-war is irrelevant to the principle at hand. Speaker’s etiquette and professional deportment (these were members and leaders of CU student organizations) says who has the floor has the floor no matter what you think of the speaker (I can’t stand the Minutemen but I must take their side in this). If you’re going to rush a stage, block a public or private building, or other form of maladjusted “direct action,” you’re commissioning a confrontation, indeed, you’re act is starting it – and somehow I seriously doubt that any of the rushers would have accepted the CR “reciprocating” against one of their own speakers.

If you wanna play rough, be ready to get your nose bloody – because you’re asking for it. And since CC had a club officer participating in the heckler’s veto all the while feigning disapproval at the shutting down of the event, they have a lot of nerve playing the victim here and it’s disgraceful that the Columbia student paper and the university administration seems to be enabling it, including giving them an opportunity to voice their views at their own venue (presumably in a protected uninterutpable format) according to today’s news from CU. This was an official activity of the university by the College Republicans acting as an agent of CU (It was a "cultural" event to “enliven” the “student experience” even if the administration disapproves of the particular message). For the CC, ISO &co to hijack it and run it into the ground rather than arrange a proper counter event, or better still a formal debate, shows where they stand on free debate and “peaceful” demonstrations. Indeed, it speaks volumes of what kind of “professionals” they will be when they graduate.
10.9.2006 1:33pm

Did marchers in Birmingham in 1963 "commission" being attacked by police dogs and firemen weilding riot hoses? Were the Birmingham authorities justified?

I have no interest in siding with the demonstrators, who I have already labeled obnoxious and misguided. What I am reacting to is the partisan propaganda that the protestors "violently assaulted" the speaker, when most or even all of the actual violence seems to have come from College Republicans and Minutemen.
10.9.2006 3:22pm

Most of the Birmingham marchers had a very good idea of what they were facing in the Jim Crowe south. They most certainly indeed, knew full well that they would be met with violent force and they took their civil disobedience very seriously. Was the force against them justified? Of course not. Don't be silly. What does that have to do with the case at hand? Not much when you add the full context.

In 63, it was the protesters who had their civil rights violated across the board, those rights they had were not "afforded" to them by racist local and state governments. In 06, in this case, the CR explicitly had the right to present their views in this venue, permit and all including the CU’s sanction of the event, and the protesters violated it. And what’s more, the protesters are now seeking and GETTING tacit support from university quarters to provide a counter event (which they could have easily gotten anyway had they behaved like adults) in which the conduct of the Direct Actioneers will be validated despite the overall university statement. I am not sure where this is going, but I have a feeling that we may see a similar DA shutdown or attempt to shutdown the CR’s next upcoming speaker (apparently he’s an ex PLOer now decidedly more pro-Israel than he once was). I’ll try to be optimistic but we're dealing with student groups who believe that *they* have the right to speak and everyone else has the right to agree with them (and not much else).

I’m not sure about where your full stance is on this but for me, I strongly object to the direct-action narrative used these days in which thuggish behavior of DA protesters invades civil and (comparatively) polite society and the condemnation is not on the protesters but on those whose civil rights THEY are violating. Anything done to keep the field for those who have been given the floor from those who have taken the floor illegitimately especially, in this type forward rushing maneuver is called “violence.” In my take, the burden of the mêlée is on the stage rushers.

I’ve had discussions with DA advocates (right and left) and with one exception (full disclosure, she as radical left, and the most violent disagreement was with someone on the “Christian” right), their response to criticism of their tactics is that they have a *unique* right to shut down anything they find distasteful with no quarter for “reciprocity” from the other side. They’re the one with the dogs and firehoses these days. And honestly, they can scare the crap out of me (which is their objective).

Sorry Angus, but I can try to disagree with you agreeably here but my limits on this particular topic get stretched thin pretty fast. Not that I won't give the old "college try” (which is considerably better than those who invited and spontaneously “disinvested” the Minutemen!).
10.9.2006 4:39pm
lucia (mail) (www):
Angus said:

What I am reacting to is the partisan propaganda that the protestors "violently assaulted" the speaker

I'm on of the non-lawyers, so I could end up saying something all the lawyer say is wrong... but I think "assault" is precisely the correct word for what the protestors were doing during the first 30 seconds of the first video! Here are definitions:

# Threat to inflict injury with an apparent ability to do so. Also, any intentional display of force that would give the victim reason to fear or expect immediate bodily harm.


At common law, assault is the tort of acting with the intention of causing harmful or offensive contact with another person, or imminent apprehension of such contact, which results in that other person being in put in a state of apprehension.


A huge throng of people jumping on stage, screaming, waving arms, and approaching the podium could be interpreted as being an intentional display of force that might give potential victims reason to fear bodily harm. Even if the protestors didn't intend bodily harm, the speaker on the stage and the college republicans and couldn't know that.

It's also not clear from the video whether fleeing was an option for the speaker or the college republicans. The left part of the stage was filled with protestors, so they couldn't flee in that direction. The floor was filled with protestors. As the melee progress, it appears protestors in the audience began to try to jump up on right in front of the podium -- though they got kicked down by the guy in the ballcap.
10.9.2006 5:52pm