The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) is investigating the cancellation of Breitbart Senior Editor MILO’s event at UC Davis last Friday.
MILO, who was due to speak at UC Davis with pharmaceutical entrepreneur and provocateur Martin Shkreli, had his event cancelled after left-wing and “anti-fascist” protesters became increasingly violent, with MILO’s cameraman being assaulted and spat on, a photographer attacked, barricades destroyed, and reports of smashed windows and tables being thrown at attendees.
Listing the disputed claims between MILO and the College Republicans versus college administrators, the free-speech group reports that they are currently unsure as to whether the university forced the event to be cancelled.
“While Americans have a First Amendment right to protest controversial speakers and demand that they be banned or silenced, our government also has a responsibility to ensure that these attempted ‘hecklers’ vetoes’ do not succeed,” declared FIRE in a post on their website. “That’s especially true at colleges and universities, which are intended as places where controversial ideas can be debated and discussed.”
“When violence, or the reasonable fear of violence, is allowed to short-circuit that dialogue, we all suffer, regardless of whose ‘fault’ it is,” they continued. “FIRE is investigating the situation.”
Out of the 42 reported cases of campus speaker censorship last year, MILO’s events made up 11 of them, with anti-free speech college incidents doubling since the previous year.
“FIRE effectively and decisively defends American liberties on behalf of thousands of students and faculty on our nation’s campuses,” explains the group on their website. “In case after case, FIRE brings about favorable resolutions for these individuals who continue to be challenged by those willing to deny fundamental rights and liberties within our institutions of higher education. In addition to individual case work, FIRE works nationally to inform the public about the fate of liberty on our campuses.”
“FIRE’s work to protect fundamental rights on campus concentrates on four areas: freedom of speech and expression; religious liberty and freedom of association; freedom of conscience; and due process and legal equality on campus,” they continue. “Ultimately, FIRE seeks to end the debilitating fatalism that paralyzes students and faculty by bringing public attention to the issue while providing protection to those who are now helpless in the face of abuses of power on campuses across the nation.”
A group of Berkeley Free Speech Movement veterans defended MILO’s right to speak in an open letter this week, condemning college professors who have sought to have the provocateur banned from his upcoming event at UC Berkeley.
“Berkeley’s free speech tradition, won through struggle — suspension, arrest, fines, jail time,” wrote the group in their letter. “We were thus disappointed that so many Berkeley faculty signed an open letter supporting such a ban and criticizing the UC administration for refusing to ban Yiannopoulos.”
The letter was a response to the many college professors at UC Berkeley who demanded that MILO be banned from campus, claiming him to be an exception from free speech.