“This is my first protest,” Law Professor Josh Blackman said as he tried to have a dialogue with students and protesters at CUNY Law in New York. Blackman generally tried to make something positive out the experience but it started out as the usual no-platforming exercise by far-left students looking to silence those they disagree with. Blackman was invited to the school two weeks ago to speak on the importance of free speech on campus. The few dozen protesters who showed up proved such a lecture was badly needed. From Blackman’s blog:
Shortly before the event began, I spoke with CUNY’s Chief of Public Safety. He explained that a few dozen students were already assembled in the hallway outside the room. They had amassed earlier in the day to create posters and signs. (Students passed out poster board and markers.) I asked him if they would heckle me in order to prevent me from speaking. He said he did not know…
Much to my surprise, when I entered the room after that rude welcome, there were only about five people in attendance. Moments later, the protestors with signs filed in and surrounded all four sides of the room. About a dozen of them were standing directly behind me.
The President of the Federalist Society Chapter asked the students standing behind me to move to the back of the room. They refused. I didn’t raise any objection. Had they stayed there, and not made any noise, it would have been fine with me.
The protestors called out: “Shame on You.” “I don’t understand how CUNY allows this.” “There are students that are directly affected by this hate speech.” “Legal objectivity is a myth.” “You still have an opportunity to leave.”
After a moment or two an administrator came in an chastised the protesters saying, “Let me tell you something. The university rules are people get to speak. You may protest. You may protest. But you may not keep anyone from speaking.” A student asked the administrator why “racists” were allowed at the school. The administrator left.
Next, a law professor warned students not to “take the bait,” which I guess was meant to suggest that Blackman wasn’t there to speak or engage in dialogue but only to troll progressives. And, returning to Blackman’s description, here’s your requisite conflation of speech with violence:
A student said, “He is threatening us.” The students then discussed amongst themselves that it was within the administration’s discretion of whether to punish them.
At this point, about three minutes in, I had only managed to say a single sentence. I decided to start, though I abandoned my prepared remarks. Instead, I decided to respond to attacks the student’s made against me in flyers that were distributed throughout the school. “For those of you who are actually here to hear me speak, I’ll try.”
When Blackman revealed he would support DREAM Act legislation he was accused of “gaslighting.”
I continued, “Were I a member of Congress, I would vote for the DREAM Act. My position is that the policy itself was not consistent with the rule of law. Which teaches a lesson.” Someone started snapping and booing. “The lesson is you can support something as a matter of policy.” Someone shouted, “What about human rights.” I continued, “but find that the law does not permit it. And then the answer is to change the law.”
A student shouted out “F**k the law.” This comment stunned me. I replied, “F**k the law? That’s a very odd thing. You are all in law school. And it is a bizarre thing to say f**k the law when you are in law school.” They all started to yell and shout over me…
I said, “I think DACA is a good policy.” A student replied, “I think you’re tired.” I admitted, in full candor, “No, I’m feeling pretty good.” At that point, the speakers realized that the heckler’s veto had failed, and I was going to speak. A student shouted, “You’re lying to yourself.” Another said, “you’re a white supremacist.” “This is really about CUNY Law and how you let this happen.” Another said “shame on you” to the students in attendance.
Just a couple points about this. First, once the students decided they weren’t going to succeed in silencing Blackman, they decided to leave. Second, even as they left, they continued to try to shame other students into leaving the room. Blackman notes that once the protesters cleared out, other students began to filter in:
Indeed, though there were only five people at the start of the event, by the time it concluded, I counted about 30 people. I learned that some students were either ashamed, or intimidated, and did not want to be seen as attending the event. A number of students thanked me after the event, and explained that conservative speech is stifled on campus not by the faculty, but by the students. The students swarm on anyone who does not toe the progressive line.
Progressive students continue to humiliate themselves with their illiberal views, their conflation of speech with violence/threats and their hyperbolic commentary. It’s a disgusting display but hardly surprising at this point. The good news, in this case, is that the heckler’s veto failed. Here’s the video of the event: