Protesters attempt to shut down Jeff Sessions speech...while he talks free speech
While addressing the current state of free speech on college campuses, President DonaldTrump’s former Attorney General Jeff Sessions was interrupted Wednesday on the campus of Amherst College in Massachusetts.
According to the Amherst Student newspaper, an unidentified instigator set off a stink bomb in the Johnson Chapel before Sessions even began his speech, while attendees were still taking their seats. The alleged stink bomb incident was followed by a walkout, a video of which was posted on Twitter. The video depicts roughly half of the attendees leaving the chapel during the speech, including one student carrying a gay pride flag.
"Prior to the start of the event, an aerosol spray was discharged in the room that produced a foul odor," Amherst College Police Chief John Carter told Campus Reform. "Police Officers were quickly able to vent the room and the responsible party was identified and removed. The event began on schedule and there were no disruptions beyond a group that peaceably left the venue a few minutes after the event began."
Students protest Jeff Sessions’ talk by walking out of Johnson Chapel and leaving nearly half the chapel empty. Video courtesy of Alex Liu ’19 pic.twitter.com/09gMfmNK7N
— The Amherst Student (@AmherstStudent) April 25, 2019
During his speech, Sessions remarked that “American universities were once the center of academic freedom, where unpopular opinions could be had, argued and defended. But [they are] transforming now into echo chamber[s] of political correctness,” according to the Daily Hampshire Gazette.
After the event, the Amherst College Republicans chapter shared a post on its Facebook page, thanking Sessions for coming to campus.
"It was great to have a distinguished public servant, Jeff Sessions, in Amherst last night. We appreciate him coming and delivering an exciting conservative message,” the group wrote.
Protesters released their own statement on Sessions after the event, as reported by the Amherst Student:
"When Amherst College Republicans and the Young America’s Foundation, went out of their way to invite Sessions to this campus, they knew very well that the action was one of power, not of free speech. "We suspect that they intended to provoke students of color to react in such a way that would paint student-organizers of color as aggressive, fitting neatly into the narrative that has vilified racialized bodies in this country for centuries," the protesting group, named the Direct Action Coordinating Committee, said.
"We oppose not only Jeff Sessions, not only the Amherst College Republicans and not only the Young America’s Foundation, but the global system of white supremacy which created them, which funds them, which feeds them. We stand firmly against global hierarchies that attempt to maintain themselves through the veneer of 'free speech' rhetoric. We stand for the power, the sanctity and the love of every human being. And we decry the cowardice, on this campus and off, which allowed for Sessions — and those like him — to continue waging a war on marginalized people," the statement continued.
Another member of the Amherst College community who was not happy with Session’s speech was economics professor Jessica Reyes, who attended the student protests with a sign which said “Jeff Sessions is a crime against humanity.” She told the Daily Hampshire Gazette that Sessions was “not welcome to [their] community,” because “he brutally wrenched children from their families to be sent back to be raped and killed.”
The event happened just weeks after Trump signed an executive order tying federal research dollars for U.S. colleges to free speech protections. According to Campus Reform's own analysis, Amherst College received $1.2 million in federal research dollars in 2017.
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