Protesters Stifle Free Speech

Ivan Jen is a former chair of the Berkeley College Republicans. Respond at [email protected]

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The protesters at last Wednesday's Mumia Abu-Jamal forum obviously were not big fans of Patrick Henry ("Shouting for Mumia," Sept. 28). The forum was held to give a different perspective of the now famous case. Dan Flynn from Accuracy in Academia came to argue that Jamal did kill police officer Daniel Faulkner in cold blood, but Flynn was never given the chance to present all the evidence.

From the very beginning, protesters were there to prevent his message from being heard. Flynn could hardly be heard over the shouting from protesters in the back, while the students in front who had come to see the other side of the trial strained their ears to hear a few of the facts.

As if intolerance were not enough, the protesters participated in a nazi-esque book-burning after the event, where they burned information relating to the case. They must have seen this as some form of a purging of the trial, but one cannot help see this as a purging of something more, perhaps truth, perhaps freedom. The protesters would have been welcomed if they had come prepared with information and had attempted to show, with facts, that Flynn was incorrect. But instead of bringing facts, they burned facts. While shouting down somebody to prevent him from expressing his mind seems to be a slightly intolerant gesture, burning books and trying to eradicate information and facts is a dangerous regression.

Perhaps the most horrific response to the situation was that of ASUC Senator Evora Griffith. Rather than condemning this intolerance and trying to seek a solution, she supported the disruptions. "If they're going to arrest the people [the protesters], they might as well arrest the speaker," Griffith said. "They knew this was going to happen."

If forums are allowed to be shutdown because they present a dissenting opinion, what becomes of free assembly, or of free association? If Griffith and Cal-SERVE truly mean this "they knew it would happen" mentality, I want nothing to do with their cult of intolerance.

The attack on free speech by a university-sponsored student group is an injustice that will not be forgotten. We want to get our message to our fellow supporters of free speech that now is the time to take a stand. UC Berkeley is no longer a place of free speech but a place of yelling contests. One side dominates this yelling contest and oppresses the free exchange of ideas. As a result of this tyranny, UC Berkeley has become a place where dissention is not allowed and those who don't adhere are persecuted.

Those in the campus majority may disagree with this claim; but they have probably never had the experience of having their ideas repeatedly shouted down because they do not follow the current strain of political correctness. It was us this time, but when will it be your ideas that do not fit within the accepted ideological framework? When will it be your books that are burned? When will you become the next outcast?

Students should remember that although we may not agree with everything that somebody else says, we must respect his right to say it. We must be intolerant only of intolerance. We must defend our right to free speech.


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