“Fascists Go Home”: Students Shutdown Pro-Life Event at VCU
We have been discussing the rising intolerance on our campuses and the repeated cancelling of events by shouting down or obstructing speakers. The latest such example comes from Virginia Commonwealth University, where pro-choice students obstructed a pro-life event.
Students for Life at VCU invited Students for Life of America President Kristan Hawkins to speak at their event. The event called “Lies Pro-Choicers Believe” resulted in pandemonium and reportedly arrests for assault and disorderly conduct. The video shows the usual elements of students on the left calling opposing speakers “fascists” and “deplatforming” by shouting them down by yelling “fascists go home,” “Nazis go home” and “f**k pro-lifers.”
The pro-life group posted videotapes and claimed that Antifa protesters were part of the violent protest.
I testified in the Senate on Antifa and the growing anti-free speech movement in the United States. I specifically disagreed with the statement of House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler that Antifa (and its involvement in violent protests) is a “myth.”
It is at its base a movement at war with free speech, defining the right itself as a tool of oppression. It is laid out in Rutgers Professor Mark Bray’s “Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook” in which he emphasizes the struggle of the movement against free speech: “At the heart of the anti-fascist outlook is a rejection of the classical liberal phrase that says, ‘I disapprove of what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it.’”
Bray quotes one Antifa member as summing up their approach to free speech as a “nonargument . . . you have the right to speak but you also have the right to be shut up.”
Michael Porter, a spokesperson for VCU, said the university was “disappointed” and added that “VCU is committed to promoting a safe environment for our students, faculty, staff and visitors so that the right to gather and speak freely is protected.” The question, however, is whether the university will hold any of these students accountable. Many are shown on videotape disrupting the event.
Many on the left insist that silencing others is an act of free speech.
When Professor Josh Blackman was stopped from speaking about “the importance of free speech” at CUNY law school, CUNY Law Dean Mary Lu Bilek insisted that disrupting the speech on free speech was free speech. (Bilek later cancelled herself after using a controversial term in a meeting and resigned). At the University of California, Santa Barbara, professors actually rallied around a professor who physically assaulted pro-life advocates and tore down their display.
There is obviously a difference between protesting outside of an event (which is clearly protected) and disrupting an event by shouting down speakers. Most schools expressly bar such disruptions, but few hold students accountable when they prevent others from speaking. A recent example can be found at Stanford Law School where the Law Dean denounced the cancelling of a federal appellate judge, but then said that no students would be sanctioned for their actions.
Until there are real consequences from universities, the anti-free speech movement on our campuses will continue unabated.
(TLB) published this article from Jonathan Turley with our appreciation for this perspective
Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanTurley.
Header featured image (edited) credit: Kristan Hawkins and Isabel Brown during Students for Life meeting that devolved into chaos after protesters stormed in. (Students for Life)
Emphasis added by (TLB) editors
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