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University of Arizona Students to Face Criminal Charges for Protesting Campus CBP Event
Written by <a href="index.php?option=com_comprofiler&task=userProfile&user=47664"><span class="small">Elham Khatami, ThinkProgress</span></a>   
Wednesday, 03 April 2019 13:04

Khatami writes: "Two students at the University of Arizona will face criminal charges for protesting a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) event on campus last month."

University of Arizona. (photo: Getty)
University of Arizona. (photo: Getty)

University of Arizona Students to Face Criminal Charges for Protesting Campus CBP Event

By Elham Khatami, ThinkProgress

03 April 19

They face up to six months in jail.

wo students at the University of Arizona will face criminal charges for protesting a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) event on campus last month. The university president has argued that the protest was “a dramatic departure from our expectations of respectful behavior and support for free speech.”

In an email to ThinkProgress, UA vice president of communications Chris W. Sigurdson said the two students are scheduled to appear in the Pima County Justice Court on April 22, 2019. “The UAPD is continuing its investigation into the incident,” he said.

According to the Arizona Republic, video of the protest went viral after several conservative outlets and social media users shared it as an example of liberal attempts to stifle free speech.  

In a statement on Friday, UA president Robert Robbins said the students will be charged with “interference with the peaceful conduct of an educational institution,” a misdemeanor which could result to up to six months in jail.

Video of the protest shows students outside of a classroom during the CBP’s presentation to the university’s Criminal Justice Association. One student can be heard calling the agents “Murder Patrol,” “murderers,” and “an extension of the KKK.”

“This is supposed to be a safe space for students,” the student said in the video. “There are students that pay to be here … that need this to be a safe space for them and we have the KKK and their supporters right here at the U of A.”

A second clip shows that as the agents leave the classroom, several students begin chanting “Murder Patrol,” with some following the agents until they were off campus.

Shortly after the incident, the university’s student government association released a letter in support of the protesters, saying that the presence of the uniformed agents, “especially without warning, was, is, and will always be immensely harmful to our DACA and undocumented community.”

Despite the student government association’s support, Robbins said in the statement that “The UA Police Department will continue to investigate the incident for additional criminal violations.”

UA police told the Arizona Republic that charges have not yet been filed against the students.

Robbins added that the “University has policies and protocols for behavior and expression, and we are following those … I have assigned university staff to examine our processes to ensure we are working effectively to help prevent similar incidents in the future while maintaining the 1st Amendment right to free speech and protest.”

Robbins goes on to prioritize the free speech rights of the students participating in the Criminal Justice Association. 

“The student club and the CBP officers invited by the students should have been able to hold their meeting without disruption. Student protest is protected by our support for free speech, but disruption is not.”

This distinction between student protest and disruption is dangerous, said Acadia University professor of judicial politics and authoritarianism Jeffrey A. Sachs.

“That’s all there is to it. That’s where we are now,” Sachs said on Twitter Monday. “You can speak but not disrupt, and believe me: disruption will include so much more than you think it should.”

UA’s stance on what constitutes a violation of free speech seems to be in line with that of President Donald Trump, who last week signed an executive order in support of free speech. While the order doesn’t establish new rules or guidelines, some experts believe it can be used by the administration to apply pressure to universities, “possibly in politically selective ways,” wrote Caroline Mala Corbin, a professor of law at the University of Miami School of Law, in the Washington Post.

Trump’s announcement of the order at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), as well as his signing ceremony when he was surrounded by conservative activists, makes it clear that “this administration’s focus is on the free-speech rights of only some citizens — namely, conservatives,” Corbin wrote.

A recent Gallup/Knight Foundation study found that the crisis of conservative free speech on campus is largely overblown. So too are incidents of universities disinviting or banning certain offensive speakers from delivering speeches on campus. According to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), there were only five cases in 2018 in which speakers were disinvited because of their views.

Still, conservative activists routinely portray liberal attempts to stifle free speech as a serious threat. This claim is misleading or based on incomplete data, Sachs argues in a 2018 blog post for the Niskanen Center.

For instance, Sachs writes, while the FIRE database shows that the left is responsible for a majority of “disinvitation incidents” on campuses, the database fails to include some similar incidents instigated by the right at religious colleges and universities. Examples include a 2015 case in which a Seventh Day Adventist institution canceled a humanist speaker’s appearance, a 2017 case in which a former Baylor Law School professor was disinvited from Baylor University for criticizing the school’s handling of a sexual assault report, and a 2015 case in which Liberty University canceled an appearance by an alumnus for his views against Hobby Lobby.

“But even so, we should expect there to be more disinvitation attempts coming from the campus left than from the right. After all, that’s where more of the students are,” Sachs wrote.

Meanwhile, UA students who are DACA recipients are standing strong against the university’s actions. On Monday, they released a letter in support of the protest, adding that “the presence of CBP on campus has a traumatic impact on our overall well being and impedes us from fully engaging with our academics.”

“Just these last two weeks, we are aware of at least 10 Border Patrol interactions with immigrants in Tucson,” the letter states. “One of them occurred on Tuesday March 19th when Customs and Border Patrol detained three members of an immigrant family, including a 12 year old daughter. After this detention, the father was deported. While this family was being separated, Customs and Border Patrol was on the University of Arizona campus recruiting students.”

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+4 # elizabethblock 2019-04-03 21:43
Well, well. Congratulations to those students. But where are their elders?
Bill McKibben spoke tonight in Toronto, and he said boomers had told him that getting arrested at a demonstration was on their bucket list.
He himself has been arrested several times. He said one of the perks of aging was that you reach a point where what the hell can they do to you?
+2 # ddd-rrr 2019-04-04 07:37
Sandra Day O'Connor visited Cornell University (ever so long ago) to give a speech.
She had voted in a Court decision concerning a Texas law against the practice of
a common gay sexual act, and she had voted to support that inappropriate
and harmful law, supplying a majority vote for it, thus maintaining it.

Gaypack members at Cornell were of two minds: one held a noisy demonstration
outside of the lecture hall; the other (a smaller group, which included myself),
arrived early to get strategic seats at this event. We came with a large
pink banner which I brought, folded up and under my light jacket.
When Sandra Day O'Connor appeared and was about to speak,
we left our seats, went to a side wall, unfolded the banner, and held it
in plain view of everyone there, including the speaker. The shouts outside
were quite audible (as were the kicks to the doors) during much of the Judge's
speech, which was quite good -- and occasionally Sandra Day O'Connor would
say something supportive of gay people, at which times we would move the
banner up-and-down as an indication of our agreement with those words.

Afterward, there was to be a reception, and a friend told me where
the judge was likely to appear in that large and crowded room.
Soon after I took my "post", she came down a stairway
and took a spot near my location, and I soon had
an opportunity to say a few words to her.

0 # hectormaria 2019-04-04 07:40
One good (or maybe bad) turn deserves another: stifle their free speech while demanding free speech observance.
+2 # ddd-rrr 2019-04-04 07:40

She reached out her hand, and I (who is an Asperger, and one who does NOT like
to shake hands), took her hand and shook it, while saying, "I apologize for the
noise and disruption, but many here feel strongly that your vote was wrong"
[on the Texas law]. Sandra Day O'Connor gracefully replied,
"I'm sure they do."

I'm still "kicking myself" for not saying to her that I thought her vote was wrong,
since it resulted in a Court ruling that was unnecessarily harmful to people.

I found afterward that another group of us had been invited to meet with the Judge,
and that they, too, had similarly "muffed" this unique opportunity.

AND, during all of this, Cornell University, unlike the University of Arizona, made
NO ATTEMPT to stop any of this, or to penalize any of the participants!

Free speech was protected, as it should be, unless it is expressed
in a way that is physically harmful to people or to property,
which did not happen that day at Cornell.
+1 # moviebum4u 2019-04-04 22:21
Seems to me that this whole thing could have been avoided if the CBP agents hadn't showed up in uniform. But they're cops, in my experience not the brightest bulbs in the room...