Columbia students: Shouting down conservatives is 'free speech'

Hundreds of Columbia University students are rallying in support of the “free speech” of the protesters who shouted down a Tommy Robinson lecture earlier this month.

At least 15 students out of 200 are under investigation by the Columbia University administration, The Columbia Spectator reports. If found guilty of causing a substantial event disruption, the protesters could face expulsion.

In the wake of this threat, hundreds of Columbia and Barnard students are rallying to the defense of the disruptive protesters, and more than 4,500 students, professors, and community members have signed a petition demanding that Columbia not discipline protesters.

Praising the protesters’ “courage to challenge the widespread acceptance of white supremacy,” the petition argues that protesters “were providing a model of informed political engagement to us all” and that “students should not be punished for reminding the campus community of the moral principles that the Columbia administration failed to uphold.”

[RELATED: Prof: Punishing protesters promotes ‘white supremacy’]

Students are also holding public meetings in support of the student protesters.

Last Friday, seven student groups held a brainstorming meeting in defense of the protesters. On Monday, those students will host a phone-banking marathon, and encourage concerned students to call up individual administrators.

"I am calling to demand that Columbia drop its investigation into students who protested a violent Islamophobe on October 10,” the prepared script reads.

“The students were exercising free speech,” it continues, adding, “I am concerned that the University is seeking to punish black and brown students and their allies for speaking up against people who do not think their lives matter."

[RELATED: Berkeley student paper: ‘heckling is a form of free speech’]

The students also dispute that protesters caused a “disruption” to Tommy Robinson’s event, though as Campus Reform reported, Robinson was unable to speak over the protesters for a substantial portion of the event.

Eventually, Robinson gave up trying to deliver his speech, and instead fielded questions from the protesters.

While the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has confirmed that this was a successful “substantial event disruption,” students claim that this disruption is merely “alleged.”

[RELATED: Evergreen State imposes punishments on 80 protesters]

Meanwhile, the potential punishment of the protesters has been criticized by students and non-students alike, who worry that the school may be unfairly criminalizing minority students, and putting them through a disciplinary process that may lack due process.

Columbia University officials have declined to respond to multiple inquiries on how they plan to uphold due process protections for the protesters under investigation, especially in the face of widespread student concern about the school’s disciplinary process.

In the name of “free speech,” students also plan to protest Mike Cernovich when he comes to Columbia on October 30 to speak on the role that alternative media played in the election of President Trump.

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