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Freedom of Speech Being Thwarted?

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

 

 

In light of this week’s Occupy events, one has to ask: are our constitutional rights being thwarted? The student demonstrations, ranging on the continent from California to New York City, have ended with painful consequences. The mainstream media does not fully report on the events, and understandably so when one considers who pays them.

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Here is a Press Release from CUNY students: November 21, 2011
WE CONDEMN the use of police violence against CUNY community members who were protesting peacefully at the public Board of Trustees Public and Budget Hearing at Baruch College on November 21, 2011. We also reject the official statement1 released by the administration of the City University of New York regarding those events.


Police detained and expelled dozens of people… by tvnportal

STUDENTS, FACULTY, AND STAFF peacefully entered the Baruch lobby to attend the public meeting of the Board of Trustees and were immediately met by a line of police carrying large wooden truncheons and blocking access to the building. Students who were on the official roster of speakers were also denied access. At no time did the students, faculty, and staff attempt to push past the massed police officers, nor to confront them physically in any way. The police directed us to the first-floor overflow room where the meeting would be televised live. Knowing that our voices would not be heard in the broadcast room, we decided that we would hold an assembly in the lobby and allow people to tell their stories and testimonies of experiences as students at CUNY. Most of us sat down on the ground so that speakers
could stand and be heard.

Panic Button Cufflinks

Panic Button Cufflinks

The police attacked us shortly after we sat down and began pushing us toward the wall, responding to our peaceful, lawful protest with physical confrontation. The suggestion provided in the CUNY administration’s statement that anyone “surged forward toward the college’s identification turnstiles, where they were met by CUNY Public Safety officers and Baruch College officials” is a categorical lie, and this is documented in video footage of the events (see below). As the officers continued to push us away from the public meeting, they blocked all exits from the lobby but a single, revolving door, through which we were forced to walk one at a time. Many of the peaceful protesters were shoved violently by the campus police, jabbed and struck in their ribs with wooden truncheons, and left badly bruised. At least one student was struck in the face. It was a miracle that no one was more seriously injured. Those who refused to leave were told that they would be arrested; when one person identified himself to officers as a CUNY faculty member and asked on what charge he would be arrested, he was not given an answer. Another officer blurted, “Because it’s a riot!”

Handcuff Cufflinks

Handcuff Cufflinks

For more information, and for video footage of the events of 11/21/2011, please visit: http://cunyprotest.wordpress.com/ and http://studentweekofaction.wordpress.com/2011/11/22/press-release-bot-public-hearing/
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Barcode Cufflinks

Barcode Cufflinks

Professional Staff Congress (PSC) President Barbara Bowen called for an investigation of police response to non-violent student protest at last night’s Borough Hearing at Baruch College:

“The City University has a proud history of student activism and protest. Some of its most important advances have occurred because of collective action by students, faculty and staff. We have made it clear to the university that violent response to non-violent students protest is not acceptable. Students, faculty and staff must be allowed to exercise their First Amendment rights of free speech and free assembly. We call on the university to conduct a full investigation of the police conduct last night. The results of the investigation should be immediately made public.”

On the other side of the country, at University of California, unarmed and seated students were pepper sprayed in the face, resulting in the University’s Chancellor Katehi to cite the events as appalling.

She is quoted by The Guardian here: “I am deeply saddened that this happened on our campus, and as chancellor, I take full responsibility for the incident,” Katehi said on Sunday. “However, I pledge to take the actions needed to ensure that this does not happen again. I feel very sorry for the harm our students were subjected to and I vow to work tirelessly to make the campus a more welcoming and safe place.”

University of California system chief Mark Yudof said free speech 'is a value we must protect with vigilance'. Photograph: Wayne Tilcock/AP

University of California system chief Mark Yudof said free speech ‘is a value we must protect with vigilance’. Photograph: Wayne Tilcock/AP

President of Trinity Washington University, Patricia McGuire, said in the Huffington Post:

“Disgust became horror when I realized that the image was domestic, and not in Zuccotti Park but on a university campus. The riot-geared police were university employees, people paid to protect students in order to advance the educational mission of the university. They wielded those pepper spray cans with the confidence of pest control workers applying Raid to roaches.

Sterling Scales of Justice Cufflinks

Sterling Scales of Justice Cufflinks

Too many baby boomers today forget our heritage in the counterculture. Boomers proudly headed south in the early 1960s to lock arms for civil rights in Birmingham and Montgomery, risking the fire hoses of police hell-bent on stomping out the rising tide of protests. Later in that tumultuous decade, boomers waged sit-ins (the original “occupy” demonstrations) in their college presidents’ offices to demand justice for the poor and oppressed. We inhaled tear gas while marching by the hundreds of thousands on Pennsylvania Avenue to demand an end to the Vietnam War.”

Sterling SIlver Symbol of Peace

Sterling SIlver Symbol of Peace

What about Peaceful Protest?

Both groups of East and West Students are asking their Chancellors to resign. This request stems from a request to instate a more democratic administrative system.