Students and Allies Protest “Chilling” of Free Speech at Northeastern University
8 August 2013 - 1:33am | jadams
by jadams (Staff)
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BOSTON/Fenway - Members and supporters of Students for Justice in Palestine demonstrated at Northeastern University Wednesday in a protest called by the school’s student chapter of the National Lawyers Guild.
The group hit out against the actions of the school after sanctions were placed on the Palestinian supporters following a protest when members of the Israeli Defense Force spoke at the school in April.
Around 15 demonstrators, some with signs or holding a large Palestinian flag, protested outside the Krentzman Quadrangle on Huntington Avenue in Boston against the school’s policy on demonstrations, which they see as having a “chilling effect on free speech.”
Law student at the university and spokesperson for the event, Max Geller, told Open Media Boston, “The school has decided for the first time ever … to use the demonstration policy to sanction Students for Justice in Palestine. SJP’s the only group who’s ever been found guilty of violating such a policy and nobody even knew it really existed beforehand …”
According to a press release, SJP “failed to obtain a permit for their silent walkout protest at a presentation by Israeli soldiers on campus, which they were required to receive seven days in advance of the event. University officials were notified of the planned protest and ordered the planned demonstration be altered. The SJP student organizers complied with the administration’s demands, which made no mention of the draconian demonstration policy. Despite SJP’s compliance [the group] was sanctioned by the administration for violating the demonstration policy.”
Geller said that SJP has been put on “probation” by the school, that their “funding is in jeopardy,” and that members of the group have to “attend a sensitivity training,” which he described as “appalling,” an “insult,” and a form of “censorship.”
He said, “we’ve been subject to stricter scrutiny as SJP members that no-one else on campus has to deal with.”
The protest was monitored at nearby entrances to the university by uniformed members of the Boston Police Department and the school’s police, and by several other people in plainclothes who appeared to be school officials, and police officers or security personnel.
Several police cars also were present at various times during the two hour demonstration, and while a school security officer had a video camera it is not known whether the demonstration was filmed.
Handing out leaflets to passerby, protestors are demanding that the university and its president, Joseph Aoun, change the policy on demonstrations and remove the sanctions placed on SJP.
Geller said, “We feel strongly that the academy is the last bastion of freedom in America and that the school belongs to its students and this is our place to express ourselves and use our ideas, develop our ideas, and we want our school to enshrine freedom of speech, not restrict it.”
“Where will the new ideas come from? Where can we reimagine the world if not at university?” Geller asked rhetorically.
The demonstration was supported by the Teamsters Union Local 25, the Massachusetts ACLU, and the Centre for Constitutional Rights.
The press office at Northeastern University did not respond to a request for a statement before the filing of this report.