In the ongoing wave of silencing conservative voices on college campuses, Texas can add Representative Briscoe Cain (R-Deer Park) to the list. Last week, the freshman lawmaker found his speaking engagement at Texas Southern University (TSU) shut down by Black Lives Matter protesters.
In response, Cain penned a letter to the state’s top legislative leaders, House Speaker Joe Straus and Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, urging them to make “protecting free speech on college campuses” a priority in the next Texas legislative session, which convenes in 2019. Cain emphasized the importance of safeguarding “the free speech rights of students from out-of-control administrations and students who don’t believe in the first amendment.”
On Monday, October 9th, I was invited to speak to the Federalist Society at Texas Southern University to give a legislative update to the students in the organization. Unfortunately, the event was disrupted by Black Lives Matter protesters who sought to silence the voices of those they disagree with. At one point a sitting Senator, Borris Miles, walked in with the University President and declared that the event was unapproved. This statement contradicted all the previous approval the administration has granted the student group who scheduled the event.
Cain told Breitbart Texas that months earlier, TSU’s Federalist Society chapter extended the invitation for him to speak at the university’s law school about the 2017 Texas legislative session. The Federalist Society is a conservative and libertarian legal advocacy group with university and law school chapters nationwide.
KHOU captured the raucous protesters, chanting and shouting “When a racist comes to town, shut it down” and “No hate anywhere, you don’t get a platform here.” They accused Cain of being a member of the “alt-right” and disagreed with his position on transgender rights. Some held signs that read: “Briscoe, you forgot your hood” and admonished him to “go back home” to his district. Others wore t-shirts that read: “Black Lives Matter.”
— Janelle Bludau (@JanelleKHOU) October 9, 2017
Houston police officers escorted the unruly disruptors out of the event until TSU President Austin Lane suddenly intervened and ordered law enforcement to allow the Black Lives Matter demonstrators back into the room. Lane then asserted that the “process has not been followed in terms of inviting speakers to campus” and shut down Cain’s speaking engagement, claiming the lawmaker’s appearance was an “unapproved event.”
He stated: So, with that being said, this event will have to stall out until the student organization goes through the appropriate channels through our Vice President of Student Affairs Office …so we can actually have the event approved.”
— Janelle Bludau (@JanelleKHOU) October 9, 2017
Subsequently, Cain released a statement, in which he described what occurred, in part: “I was greeted by campus officials and brought into a room which the administration had specifically requested the talk occur. Then, Black Lives Matter came in and bullied the administration into ending the event.”
Additionally, James Douglas, interim dean of TSU’s Thurgood Marshall School of Law, told The Dallas Morning News the law school’s chapter of the Federalist Society followed university procedure and they approved the event.
“We have a process here in the law school, and they went through our process,” said Douglas. “The speaker had a First Amendment right to be heard by the students that invited him.”
A staunch supporter of the First Amendment, Cain told Breitbart Texas, “I have always supported free speech for everyone, even if I disagree with what is being said.”
In fact, months before he was silenced at TSU, Cain introduced House Bill 2527, which sought to protect First Amendment rights on Texas college campuses, thwarting the protest pattern where leftist activists shut down conservative student groups and speakers. He told Breitbart Texas the bill would have “offered legal protection to students and student groups from college administrators who seek to shut down their free speech.” It authorized the state attorney general to investigate such incidents and fine universities that violated protected free speech. HB 2527, though, was one of several similar bills that fizzled during the 2017 Texas Legislature.
About his recent experience at TSU, Cain concluded, “It is sad to see a university, which should be a place where ideas should be freely discussed, instead become a place where some ideas are not even allowed to be aired.” He told Breitbart Texas, “I’m especially concerned that a university president is the person responsible for violating this sacred American right.”
Follow Merrill Hope, a member of the original Breitbart Texas team, on Twitter.