Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Tuesday that his Justice Department will enter the legal fight over free speech on college campuses, as he delivered a blistering speech at Georgetown University Law Center declaring freedom of thought and speech is "under attack".
Third-year law student Imani Waweru cited President Donald Trump's criticism of National Football League players and other actions by the White House in asserting that the administration "has fallen short in a lot of areas about understanding what free speech entails".
Sessions told the story of one group of students who were jailed for passing out copies of the Constitution on a campus walkway, and cited a survey that found 40 percent of USA colleges and universities have 'speech codes that substantially infringe on constitutionally protected speech'. At one point, Sessions appeared to take a page out of President Donald Trump's book, drawing a freaky equivalence between protesters at Middlebury college, and the KKK.
According to Phillips, school officials also told students that they could only protest Sessions' speech within a designated "free speech zone" on campus, and that any students who wanted to protest during the speech itself would have to do so without "disrupting" it.
The guest speaker who was invited to the private liberal arts school for a debate was Charles Murray, the controversial co-author of "The Bell Curve", which argues that there may be intellectual differences between races.
The group of roughly 30 participating professors released a statement explaining their belief that it was hypocritical for Sessions to speak on free speech after President Donald Trump criticized NFL players for protesting the national anthem.
"The president has free speech rights too", Sessions said.
Some faculty members issued a statement Monday night, saying they acknowledge his right to speak on campus but "condemn the hypocrisy of Attorney General Sessions speaking about free speech". More US adults surveyed by Gallup last year thought that Americans' ability to exercise their free speech rights is weaker today than 20 years ago (40%), than those who thought it was stronger (31%). "We will defend your views and the right to express them in appropriate and effective ways", he said.
Before the talk, several Georgetown faculty members joined the protesting students on the steps of McDonough Hall, where they took a knee and linked arms. And since that wasn't enough of a farce, around 130 students were reportedly disinvited from the event in order to guarantee him a sympathetic audience - you know, like people who love open debate and the First Amendment do!
Oblivious to the irony, Sessions added that "in this great land, the government does not tell you what to think or what to say".
Sessions has regularly faced small groups of protestors outside his speeches around the country, many denouncing his views on criminal justice and policing issues. "The American university was once the center of academic freedom - a place of robust debate, a forum for the competition of ideas".
The sense that Sessions might not be operating in good faith when he decried "safe spaces" deepened when more than 100 students had their invitations to the noon event revoked.