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Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Death of Free Speech

Here's the story in a nutshell:

1. A recognized, but controversial, campus group brings a public figure to a college campus to speak about in opposition to illegal immigration;

2. Forces opposed to the speaker's views do not engage the speaker in "civil discourse" but instead stage a "mini riot" - shouting down the speaker and damaging campus property:
UNC-CH police released pepper spray and threatened to use a Taser on student protesters Tuesday evening when a crowd disrupted a speech by former Colorado congressman Tom Tancredo opposing in-state tuition benefits to unauthorized immigrants.

Hundreds of protesters converged on Bingham Hall, shouting profanities and accusations of racism while Tancredo and the student who introduced him tried to speak. Minutes into the speech, a protester pounded a window of the classroom until the glass shattered, prompting Tancredo to flee and campus police to shut down the event.

Tancredo was brought to campus by a UNC chapter of Youth for Western Civilization, a national organization of students who oppose mass immigration, multiculturalism and affirmative action.
3. Speaker withdraws, protesters are arrested;

4. In court, some punishments are meted out, though most arrested "activists" had charges dismissed but promise further action, see here:

Fight Back: Please give us a little background about the trial. What where you charged with?

Haley Koch: I was charged with "disturbing the peace at an educational institution," a subsection of the disorderly conduct statute. I was arrested nine days following the protest of the white supremacist hate group Youth for Western Civilization (YWC) and the racist, xenophobic Tom Tancredo. Although more than 250 students and community members expressed their outrage and disapproval at his presence, I was the only person arrested. I was handcuffed outside my class, in front of my classmates and professor, and walked across campus before being patted down, searched, and then taken to the police station. This followed the disgraceful behavior of the University and its police forces in their apology to Tom Tancredo and their harassment of student activists.

Fight Back: Despite months of pressure from the UNC administration and right-wing forces, the judge dismissed the charges against you and other protesters. How do you feel about this? Do you feel vindicated?

Haley Koch: I believe the dismissal sent a strong message to the University community that protest (even loud, visible protest) is legal and should not be repressed and policed in the way it was. I should hope that they would think harder about arresting protesters in the future. I also hope that students take note that we can and will have our voices heard.
Fight Back:
YWC's previous faculty advisor Chris Clemens stepped down over the summer, and was nearly disbanded from campus as a result. But now they have a new faculty sponsor and have announced events for the fall. Will the organizing continue against the YWC?

Haley Koch: The organizing against YWC will continue. Chris Clemens' decision to step down as advisor of YWC revealed the fact that sometimes protest and "controversy" are necessary to create social change.

YWC is planning to bring Bay Buchanan later this year. There will be protests. I still have hopes that the advisor and the president will come to realize that they are enabling a white supremacist hate group and will choose to step down. But, if they desire a fight, they should know that we have the strength and resources for it.

We will continue to organize against fascism, racism, and hate speech. These oppressions must not be allowed on our campus or in our communities.

Fight Back: The struggle against YWC has also put forward to other demands about a police review board and a hate speech policy at UNC, can you briefly let us know what is going on with that?

Haley Koch: The Protesters Defense Committee (PDC) is having conversations with Student Government about creating a police review board, and we will continue to fight for this. The next step will be mobilizing broader student and faculty support. We now have recorded testimony by police officer Lieutenant Twiddy saying that he shoved me to the ground that I believe will help in this struggle.

Several of us are meeting with Chancellor Thorp in the coming weeks to discuss the University's acceptance of hate and to explore ways to make the campus community a place safe for all students.

We will also be thinking creatively about ways to advance the struggle against institutionalized racism across the campus and our town.

The dismissal of the case against Koch apparently was due to her limited participation in the protest:
[Judge] Buckner said the defendants' obeying police orders to leave the events shielded them from prosecution.

"The event went on," Buckner said.

In the Tancredo case, under cross-examination by Ekstrand, Twiddy testified that Koch complied with his order to leave the classroom as the event began. The judge found Koch "was only responsible for 90 seconds of disruption," Assistant District Attorney Jeff Nieman said.
Less clear is what happened to the part, previously noted, about:
Hundreds of protesters converged on Bingham Hall, shouting profanities and accusations of racism while Tancredo and the student who introduced him tried to speak. Minutes into the speech, a protester pounded a window of the classroom until the glass shattered, prompting Tancredo to flee and campus police to shut down the event.
I assume that poor police work in failing to identify and arrest the window breaker allowed him/her to escape prosecution. That Trancredo feared for his safety seems and "fled" seems to have not an issue at trial.

5. The "activists" are back in the news and seem to be getting their way with the university administration, as set out in UNC-CH chancellor freezes activist group:
UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp shut down a campus anti-immigration group Friday after an anonymous flier targeted its faculty adviser, who then joked about his skills with a Colt .45.

Activists put out the flier at UNC-Chapel Hill this week revealing the home address of Youth for Western Civilization faculty adviser Elliot Cramer. Protests at speeches sponsored by the group led to seven arrests and a broken classroom window last spring.

On Thursday night, chapter President Nikhil Patel warned Cramer by e-mail that the flier included his name, photograph, home address and telephone number with the caption, "Why is your professor supporting white supremacy?" It encouraged students, faculty and community members to urge Cramer to withdraw from organization.

"I thought I'd let you know so that you can plan for some sort of protection," wrote Patel, an Indian-American who denies the group is white-supremacist. "It seems like an indirect threat to your safety."

"Thanks for your concern," Cramer replied just after midnight, copying Thorp. "I have a Colt .45, and I know how to use it. I used to be able to hit a quarter at 50 feet seven times out of ten."

By Friday afternoon, Thorp asked Cramer to step down as the group's adviser.

"This email is highly inappropriate," Thorp wrote to Cramer. "It is certainly not consistent with the civil discourse we are trying to promote."

Thorp said Youth for Western Civilization is out of business until it can replace Cramer.

"We're trying to come up with a way to have civil discourse and for different points of view to be shared," Thorp said in an interview Friday. "Somebody who's the faculty adviser has to show some restraint."

Cramer said that the flier didn't feel like a real threat and that his response to Patel was "off-hand" and "light-hearted." He complied with Thorp's request to resign.

"I'm sorry that I placed [the chancellor] in an awkward position," said Cramer, who retired from the psychology department 15 years ago.
Yes, I know, you thought the "activists" in the headline might be the "protesters" who interrupted free speech and damaged the university property. Nope, it's the student group that followed the rules, got a sponsor and complied with university rules that gets hammered. The protesters, of which the "hate speaking" Ms. Koch ("white supremacist hate group . . . racist, xenophobic . . .") now champions as defenders of "free speech" that have prevailed afer taking the provocative action of distributing fliers carrying an implicit threat toward the properly credentialed YWC's sponsor.

Could YWC do the same thing to the "protesters?" Nope, the protesters have no organization, no faculty sponsor and no sense of the irony of their form of "protection" of free speech. Having shouted down voices opposed to illegal immigration they have also killed "civil discourse." It'll be a bold faculty member who does not bow to the pressure and steps up for the YWC.

One would think that various "free speech" advocacy groups would step forward to assist the YWC...

Query: Is calling some person a "racist" or a "white supremacist" a form of "hate speech?"
What about if you add the following?
Violent threats of "Yes, racists, we will fight, we know where you sleep at night!" and other general "racist" shouts,,,
What about if the above quote was accompanied by violent activity?

ACLU on hate spech:
The First Amendment to the United States Constitution protects speech no matter how offensive its content. Speech codes adopted by government-financed state colleges and universities amount to government censorship, in violation of the Constitution. And the ACLU believes that all campuses should adhere to First Amendment principles because academic freedom is a bedrock of education in a free society.

How much we value the right of free speech is put to its severest test when the speaker is someone we disagree with most. Speech that deeply offends our morality or is hostile to our way of life warrants the same constitutional protection as other speech because the right of free speech is indivisible: When one of us is denied this right, all of us are denied. Since its founding in 1920, the ACLU has fought for the free expression of all ideas, popular or unpopular. That's the constitutional mandate.

Where racist, sexist and homophobic speech is concerned, the ACLU believes that more speech -- not less -- is the best revenge. This is particularly true at universities, whose mission is to facilitate learning through open debate and study, and to enlighten. Speech codes are not the way to go on campuses, where all views are entitled to be heard, explored, supported or refuted. Besides, when hate is out in the open, people can see the problem. Then they can organize effectively to counter bad attitudes, possibly change them, and forge solidarity against the forces of intolerance.

College administrators may find speech codes attractive as a quick fix, but as one critic put it: "Verbal purity is not social change." Codes that punish bigoted speech treat only the symptom: The problem itself is bigotry. The ACLU believes that instead of opting for gestures that only appear to cure the disease, universities have to do the hard work of recruitment to increase faculty and student diversity; counseling to raise awareness about bigotry and its history, and changing curricula to institutionalize more inclusive approaches to all subject matter.

More information of Youth for Western Civilization:
Our mission is to organize, educate and train activists dedicated to the revival of Western Civilization.
Is that "hate speech?" - since it indicates a belief that Western Civilization if to be preferred to other civilizations?

UPDATE: From here:
"He said it was a joke, and I said, 'this just isn't something we joke about,'" Thorp said.

Cramer said he copied Thorp and Koch to the e-mail because he wanted them to be aware of the brochures with his address. He stressed his comments about the gun were a joke.

"Oh, of course it was a joke," Cramer said. "It's one thing to say that they simply ought to contact me, but to put my address is an implied threat."

Cramer, who has been retired for 15 years, added he no longer owns a Colt .45, but said he used to be a target shooter in college. He said he thinks he owns a .22 caliber.
The group's future is now uncertain. Jon Curtis, associate director of organizations and activities, said the group will have 30 days to find a new faculty adviser, which is standard for when a group loses its adviser.

"I'm contacting some professors who might be able to help," Patel said. He added he hopes to meet with Thorp to discuss Cramer's resignation, and he said he disagrees with Thorp's request.

"I thought it was kind of funny," Patel said about Cramer's gun comments. "I understood it to be a joke."
UPDATE2: Of course the allegation of "racism" may be true - if the speaker actually believes in the supremacy of one race over another, but what about this? And see here for info on labeling Trancredo as racist.

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