Court Upholds GWU’s Ejection of Silent Speech Protester

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GWU A Model Vs Milo Yiannopoulos at Berkley And Charles Murray at Middlebury College

In stark contrast to the growing practice of universities to do little or nothing when protestors disrupt and prevent controversial speakers from being heard, George Washington University [ GWU ] took prompt action to eject and arrest a single non-violent protester, and a court has just upheld its action as legally justified, notes public interest law professor John Banzhaf.

When Hillary Clinton spoke at GWU, a protester refused to be seated, and then turned his back on the speaker, engaging in what he called a “a silent expression of dissent.”

Although neither the speaker nor anyone else seemed to be concerned, two GWU special police officers asked him to leave. When he refused, the silent protester was promptly removed and arrested.

He challenged his arrest as unlawful, and sought damages against the officers and the University for alleged violations of his constitutional rights.

However, a court has just upheld the arrest as a proper action of enforcing the University’s “zero tolerance” policy under its Disruptions and Demonstrations Policies.

The Demonstrations Policy states that “[d]emonstrators will be prohibited from attempting to force the cancellation or interruption of any event sponsored by the University” and those “who wish to enter a building must do so as members of the audience, and must give the speaker a respectful hearing.”

The policy also provides that “[e]xamples of disruptive conduct include . . . engaging in demonstrations that exceed the bounds of free assembly or lawful advocacy.”

This is in stark contrast to recent events on other campuses, says Banzhaf.

For example, recently at Middlebury College students chanted and shouted at Charles Murray, the controversial writer whom many accuse of espousing racist ideas, preventing him from giving a public lecture at the college. In a melee immediately following, a professor who was simply accompanying Murray was injured by protestors.

At many other colleges, Milo Yiannopoulos was prevented from speaking by protester disruptions. In contrast, GWU was able to permit him to speak there without any disruptions, notes Banzhaf.

GWU’s actions show that it is possible for universities to permit even controversial figures to be heard espousing unpopular views, and thereby protecting free speech and academic freedom from the heckler’s veto, says Banzhaf.

In light of a growing student belief that they have a right not to hear – and even to prevent others from hearing – views which they find offensive and/or label “hate speech,” the best policy may be for colleges to take very prompt action to arrest protesters at the earliest signs of disruptive behavior, rather than allowing the conduct to continue and get our of hand, he says.

He notes that apparently none of the Charles Murray disruptors at Middlebury have yet been disciplined.

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