Black Lives Matter protestors shut down ACLU “free speech” lecture at William and Mary

October 5, 2017 • 12:00 pm

The title of this post sounds ironic, doesn’t it? But not if you share Black Lives Matter’s (BLM’s) view—and that of other Regressive Leftists—that offensive speech isn’t protected free speech and that the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is a hate group because it defends the civil liberties of white supremacists, Nazis, and other bigots.  This incident bothers me more than usual, because it happened at my alma mater (I went to William and Mary, graduating in 1971), and because just seems to crazy to shut down a talk on free speech.

The Flat Hat, the College’s student newspaper, reports that Clair Guthrie Gastañaga, Executive Director of the ACLU of Virginia, was scheduled to talk at the College on September 27 on the topic “Students and the First Amendment.” Her talk was co-sponsored by Alma Mater Productions (AMP) and the ACLU. But Gastañaga never got to give her talk, as BLM members (actually, most of the students seem to be white), stood up with signs (most hiding their faces), and then began to disrupt the talk. BLM’s ill-considered beef against the ACLU is, I think, twofold: the ACLU defended the alt-righters’ right to assemble in Charlottesville, and the ACLU defends free speech, which BLM sees as a privileged “right” that isn’t extended to people of color. From the Flat Hat (my emphasis):

The ACLU discussion never occurred because protesters took over the stage within five minutes of Executive Director of the ACLU of Virginia Claire Guthrie Gastañaga’s entrance. Signs in hand, the protesters shouted chants such as “liberalism is white supremacy” and “the revolution will not uphold the constitution.”

Twenty minutes into the protest, AMP Director of Internal Affairs Hasini Bandara ’18 approached the group with a microphone and gave members an opportunity to read their prepared statement.

In the statement, BLM criticized the ACLU’s approach to white supremacy in regard to the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, suggesting that the organization provides an unnecessary platform for white supremacists.

“When is the free speech of the oppressed protected?” a BLM group representative asked. “We know from personal experience that rights granted to wealthy, white, cis, male, straight bodies do not trickle down to marginalized groups. We face greater barriers and consequences for speaking.”

So here we have a truly gonzo claim: that liberalism is white supremacy (is any political ideology not white supremacy?), and that, comes the Revolution, we won’t need (or have) the Constitution. Further, I don’t see the oppressed being denied their freedom of speech. After all, BLM is out and loud, and, however “marginalized” they are, their speech is protected, and I don’t see that they encounter “barriers and consequences for speaking.”

This is not a good look for BLM, which started as a justifiable protest against the racist actions of some police officers. Now, without a unified message or central leadership, BLM is devolving into a bunch of authoritarian Control-Leftists who do things manifestly nonproductive to their message—at least the original one. They may be venting their feelings, but they’re not helping people of color.

The Flat Hat reports what happened: not only was the talk canceled, but when students tried to speak with Gastañaga, BLM disrupted that, too:

After reading the statement aloud, the group’s representative took her place back in line, and the protesters continued to chant.

One student who attended the event, Laith Hashem ’19, was bothered by protesters’ refusal to engage in an open, two-sided discussion.

. . . Thirty minutes into the protest, the discussion was cancelled.

“It was a collective decision from people in the AMP leadership team and our advisers,” AMP director Miguel Dayan ’19 said. “It was clear that we [were] unable to continue with the event, and it was appropriate to cancel.”

After the cancellation was announced, remaining students clustered around Gastañaga, hoping to ask questions and voice concerns. These students dispersed, however, when the protesters began circling around them, drowning out Gastañaga and chanting with increased volume.

That’s just fricking rude: even worse than interrupting a talk. They don’t even want private discourse! Here’s a video someone put up showing the melee. If you want, ignore the introductory commentary and listen from 2:33-10:46:


The last snippets of the report I want to post are these:

Although the protesters identified themselves as merely “concerned students,” the College’s BLM chapter took credit on its Facebook page through a livestream of the event, as well as a written post stating, “Tonight, we shut down an event at William & Mary where Claire Gastañaga, executive director of the ACLU of Virginia, was speaking. In contrast to the ACLU, we want to reaffirm our position of zero tolerance for white supremacy no matter what form it decides to masquerade in.”

Seriously, the ACLU is “white supremacy”? It’s a sad day in Williamsburg when I have to hear this kind of lunacy.

The College’s President, Taylor Reveley, who has announced he’ll resign in 2018, issued the following statement (taken from Inside Higher Ed):

William & Mary has a powerful commitment to the free play of ideas. We have a campus where respectful dialogue, especially in disagreement, is encouraged so that we can listen and learn from views that differ from our own, so that we can freely express our own views, and so that debate can occur. Unfortunately, that type of exchange was unable to take place Wednesday night when an event to discuss a very important matter — the meaning of the First Amendment — could not be held as planned.

The event, co-sponsored by William & Mary’s student-run programming organization Alma Mater Productions (AMP) and the ACLU, was entitled “Students and the First Amendment.” The anticipated conversation never occurred when protesters refused to allow Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, executive director of the ACLU of Virginia, to be heard. The protesters then drowned out students who gathered around Ms. Gastañaga, seeking to ask her questions, hear her responses and voice their own concerns.

Silencing certain voices in order to advance the cause of others is not acceptable in our community. This stifles debate and prevents those who’ve come to hear a speaker, our students in particular, from asking questions, often hard questions, and from engaging in debate where the strength of ideas, not the power of shouting, is the currency. William & Mary must be a campus that welcomes difficult conversations, honest debate and civil dialogue.

To me, this is (pardon my French) a lame-ass statement in one respect: what is the College going to do about this? Will they formulate a policy, as we have at the University of Chicago, to stop disruption of speakers? Will they punish those students who interrupted the talk? Nothing is said. So I’ve written Taylor Reveley about this, and if you’re a W&M alum (or anybody else interested in free speech), you can write him at (given on his web page).

Black Lives Matter is increasingly becoming a group that doesn’t know how to accomplish its aims. It knows how to disrupt, it knows how to use Control-Left speech tropes, but it’s not going to stop the ACLU from defending everybody’s freedom of speech, no matter how offensive some people consider that speech.

68 thoughts on “Black Lives Matter protestors shut down ACLU “free speech” lecture at William and Mary

      1. If they did read it, do you suppose they would ever be able to comprehend the irony in it?


  1. I think it would be an interesting exercise to get a bunch of BLM leaders together and pose a question to them: “If you had absolute power for 1 year how would you change the laws of the US to create the society you strive for?” We already know the Constitution is out the window. So what would replace it?- in detail.
    I’d love to see the nightmare they’d come up with.

    1. It’s the NIGHTMARE. Who is teaching these young people? They couldn’t have made something up this absurd by themselves. One after the other, it doesn’t look like a passing fad. We should all be very nervous about what’s happening to our universities.

      1. I disagree. This sounds like exactly the sort of thing a bunch of ignorant children who think they know everything would come up with.

        1. No. This whole notion of “privilege”, that everything is determined by “power structures” has been taught. And the only way you can conclude that civil rights, such as free speech or free assembly, are “white privilege” that has never been of use to “the oppressed” is if you have been taught to evaluate the claim in light of such nonsense, rather than in the light of historical fact. These people look at the free speech of The Liberator or The North Star and see white supremacy!

          1. “Taught” only in the limited sense that they’ve picked up various memes from one another.

            If you follow Aneris’s comments about the academic origins of such regressive pomo concepts as Critical Race Theory you’d see that most of these kids have barely any conception of where the memes they regurgitate actually originated.

            Which means that what’s actually happened is these kids have not been educated enough into genuine critical and skeptical thinking, and have been co-opted by half-baked memetic ideas that feel and sound good but have no rational core and are easily abused.

  2. Disrupting an event is one thing, but wouldn’t they, by their own definition, call surrounding a private party of people trying to talk “harassment”? I wonder if the courts would see it that way.

    Also, is it ironic that Black Lives Matter has been co-opted by a large group of whites decrying white supremacy?

    All this is is anger, hate and spite wrapped up in a cloak of “social justice”.

    Christians ignore counterarguments by calling them messages from the Devil.

    The CTRL-Left ignores counterarguments by calling them the tools of White Supremacy.

    Seriously having trouble telling the two religions apart.

    1. “And who decides which people deserve free speech?”

      I think the protestors think – feel? – that oppression or injustice justifies the denial of free speech that is not in lockstep against that oppression or injustice.

      That’s the fundamental fallacy.

  3. So, the right to free speech allows BLM to speak like this, yet they are against free speech. The hypocrisy of it all gives me a headache.

    1. At this point I don’t even know if it is hypocrisy or imbecility induced by years of indoctrination in postmodern something.

      If they were required to study instead of wasting time with autoethnographies they would probably recognise some worrying pattern in what they “propose”.

  4. Looks like another school, sadly, that has lost control of their own programs. There is a gross lack of leadership within the schools that allow this kind of thing and unless they take control and demand that regulation and rules are followed, nothing will stop it. I think it would be necessary to remove the people in charge and find new ones.

  5. …“the revolution will not uphold the constitution.”

    You heard it hear first, folks. Whatever these folks are aiming at, it will not be a free country. So much ignorance, so little foresight.

    1. If it were only the kids. It’s the kids, their parents, their teachers, and most of the media that are dooming the democratic party.

  6. “In contrast to the ACLU, we want to reaffirm our position of zero tolerance for white supremacy no matter what form it decides to masquerade in.”

    And of course the definition of “white supremacy” is whatever they decide it to be, including their ever widening circle of what counts as white supremacy. No tolerance for dissent, a widening conception of what counts as dissent. Where have we seen that before?

    A very, very creepy movement.

  7. The chant “liberalism is white supremacy” is telling. Indeed, these demonstrators are not liberals and should not be mistaken for them. The great majority of people on the Left, the true liberals, need to condemn and repudiate the Leftist authoritarians. They must not let the right wing conflate liberals with the authoritarians. We know the right wing will attempt to do this and liberals must not let them get away with it.

    1. In a two party system, these are liberals whether we like it or not. It’s not a matter of not letting the right wing get away with conflating liberals with the authoritarians. Leftist authoritarians get media attention and it not the fault of the right wing, it’s our fault.
      I think we should be less concerned with what the right wing makes of these incidents than we should that fence sitters may assume these are mainstream liberals. We have to fix this from within and not blame others for our failings.
      As a liberal, it frightens be a bit to think leftist authoritarians may one day run the country. If it frightens you as well, what do you think it does to people not as liberal as you?
      They may be a small faction, but like ISIS and the KKK, they’re getting press.

      I don’t know what to do about it and that worries me.

      1. Perhaps your definition of liberal differs from mine. By my definition, any group or person that denies freedom of speech is not liberal regardless of their positions on any other issues. I suspect also that many of these people would not consider themselves Democrats whom they would view as hardly better than the KKK.

        1. Well said, Historian. There always has been an authoritarian ‘left’, as anyone who has a smattering of historical knowledge knows.

  8. I was waiting for someone to come out and address them. “Please sit down or you will be asked to leave. (pause) Please leave now. (pause) For those of you still standing, if you do not leave now, campus safety will be called and you will be written up.” (pause) Call campus safety. A policy in place to prevent disruptions of speakers is definitely a good idea regardless of what the students are protesting. It was a little odd also that there were many white students chanting, “The oppressed are not impressed.”

  9. BLM is a movement and not an organization. I am sure (and hope that my certainty is valid) that most who assume the BLM label do not approve of what protesters did at William and Mary.

    1. I think prominent spokespeople for BLM would need to disavow this action. Otherwise people do have good reason to believe this represents BLM.

      At the very least, you would think BLM is a chaotic movement at cross purposes with itself. Unfortunately, I’m not so sure that most who label themselves BLM would disapprove.

      1. Why don’t you try to find out whether they disapprove or not? And find out whether there is an actual political organisation that bears the title ‘Black Lives Matter’? It seems to be a self-interested rightwing, and white-wing, trope that ‘Black Lives Matter’ is something akin to the ‘Black Panthers’.

  10. This is discouraging. The left coalition is not going to be effective when so many leftists treat their coalition partners so shabbily. The “liberalism is white supremacy” is jaw-droppingly bad. It destroy’s credibility and makes you wonder what kind of values do these protester’s even have.

    I do have to say that Berkeley’s Free Speech week was mildly encouraging despite the very bad planning by the organization sponsoring the speakers. Berkeley learned from their previous mistakes and Shapiro’s speech went on without serious issue. They stopped people showing up with weapons or with their faces masked. I read that there was no reported violence or property damage. Andrew Sullivan reported that during the Q&A session, two of the students asked good questions that Shapiro couldn’t effectively answer.

    1. I’ve seen clips of Shapiro fielding questions, and he’s had it easy swatting mindless SJWs parroting rhetoric. Many of his position have internal contradictions that could be easily picked apart by a thinking person.

  11. Please don’t attribute these views to Black Lives Matter as a whole, just because some college newspaper quoted an unnamed local “representative” as saying something stupid or protesters identifying with BLM also protested something unrelated to its cause.

    Black Lives Matter is focused on protesting the higher rate of fatal police encounters involving African Americans, and I support it for that reason. I also know there are those who both support BLM and other ideas I do NOT support, like shutting down freedom of speech. Too many people conflate opposition to racism with blocking accused racists from speaking.

    But attributing that idea to BLM itself is akin to declaring that atheists as a whole want to destroy freedom of religion, just because many believe religion to be a source of evil and a small idiotic few might even advocate for banning it.

    1. The best data indicates that there is no higher rate of fatal police encounters involving blacks.

      Here is the best study to date:

      Here is Andrew Sullivan describing the Washington Post’s data on fatal shootings so far in 2017, as well as in 2015 and 2016:

      1. Thanks for the response, and please take another look at those articles: that study doesn’t mean what you think it means. Both of those links, while quoting true statistics, are quite misleading.

        The study cited in that NYT article shows the subset of black people *who are stopped by police* are as likely to end up dead as the subset of white people *who are stopped by police*. But as the article itself points out, “this work focused only on what happens once the police have stopped civilians, not on the risk of being stopped at all. Other research has shown that blacks are more likely to be stopped by the police.” Twice as likely to be stopped x equally likely to be killed once stopped = twice as likely to be killed.

        It also shows that, once stopped by police, black people are significantly more likely to be non-fatally assaulted as white people stopped by police.

        Per the Washington Post, citing a national database of total police encounters, 24% of those killed by police are black, even though black people make up 13% of the population. That’s due to the far greater likelihood of black people being stopped for questioning at all. “That means black Americans are 2.5 times as likely as white Americans to be shot and killed by police officers.”

        So what about Andrew Sullivan’s response? To argue that the problem isn’t worthy of so much attention, he cites a more recent Washington Post article, saying “In the first six months of this year, for example, the Post found a total of 27 fatal shootings of unarmed people, of which black men constituted seven.”

        Please stop for a moment and divide 7 from 27. It’s ok, I’ll wait. I’ll give you a hint: it’s an even higher percentage than the earlier Post statistic.

        Sullivan does admit that “[o]ne is too many,” and I would agree: especially when the death is caused by someone whose job is to protect the innocent and who almost never faces any legal consequences. Yet that “seven” in six months is still misleadingly low. I would argue many who are “armed” are legally so, do not actually go for their gun, or might be armed by a keychain knife in a pocket. Consider Philando Castile, who was armed with a legally-owned gun and, after revealing this to the officer in a calm and responsible manner, was summarily executed.

            1. Of course not. But it means that BLM’s claims, that they are disproportionate and the disproportion is due to racism, are unjustified.

        1. Consider Philando Castile, who was armed with a legally-owned gun and, after revealing this to the officer in a calm and responsible manner, was summarily executed.

          Anecdote. Show the data that this sort of thing: 1) doesn’t happen to whites; 2) happens disproportionately to blacks.

          “…was summarily executed.”
          Histrionic. The cop panicked; he did not intentionally ‘execute’ him.

          1. Well, well, Matt certainly seems to be demonstrating that racism is alive and well in the USA.

            Poor panicking cop.

            1. I interpret this comment as accusing me of racism, and I’m going to ask you now to formally renounce or retract that accusation.

          2. Matt, I think you’re confusing “anecdote” with “example”, and I find your demand for more data… ironic.

            1. I think ‘myopic’ might be a better description than ‘ironic’. It might have something to do with looking through colour-tinged spectacles.

            2. You present Castile’s death as evidence for systemic racism. At best, it would indicate racism of one (hispanic, btw) cop.

              You also described the incident with a degree of certainty that, aside from Castile’s wife, no one, including the jury, felt.

          3. “The cop panicked; he did not intentionally ‘execute’ him.”

            No, he just murdered him.

            Well, what else would you call it? An accident?



            1. In my mis-spent youth, I was working as a labourer on a building-site in London. I soon discovered that most of the painters, who always went about and worked in pairs, were petty criminals. I got friendly with a young painter from Yorkshire who was about my age, and once asked him what another painter had been ‘inside’ for. ‘Well,’ my pal said. ‘He killed this bloke. But it wasn’t his fault! They was doing this job, see, and this bloke got in the way, so he shot him.’

              No doubt this was a moment of panic, too, but it was still murder.

              1. Justified by *what*?

                The fact that the defence managed to bamboozle a jury doesn’t make it justifiable, it just means that the cop got away with murder.

                Or, possibly, manslaughter, I’d have to think about that. The fact that he shot the victim five times kinda militates against that, doesn’t it?


              2. Seven shots, five of which hit the victim… just how much ‘intent’ do you need?


              3. He doesn’t need any amount of ‘intent’. Matt’s mind is made up. White cops matter.

              4. Oh, but he was ‘hispanic’ – I must say that the American obsession with race and who belongs to what race is to an outsider quite extraordinary.

    2. BLM was founded by marxists who invoke Critical Race Theory. BLM makes numerous unsupported claims, distorts data, and calls for controversial actions such as reparations and closing all prisons.

      You should pay more attention to the full agenda of orgs you support.

  12. Oh, and to think all those dolts on the regressive left tried to gaslight me into thinking there wasn’t a problem with post-modernist Neo-Marxism, or whatever the hell you want to call it, on campuses and in society at large.

    They keep on asking for “evidence”, in the same way Young Earth Creationists ask for it. You give it to them, and this latest incident will be added to the bulging folder, and yet they will deny it.

    You know why? Because THEY SUPPORT IT.

  13. Ironically, the current issue of the W&M alumni mag, which they deigned to send me this quarter, has a cover and feature story on 50yrs of African-American resident students.

    It should be the first pic on the montage here, but if it doesn’t show, just wait.

    1. ‘William & Mary’, of course, refers to a British king and queen. Hence, quintessentially, white supremacist of the very worst sort.

      I mean, if a stachoo of Gen’l Lee evokes dire offence, howcome this affront to every oppressed non-white non-Imperialist victim is allowed to exist?


  14. “the revolution will not uphold the constitution.”

    Coming from the left this is sad, disappointing, myopic, and dangerous. But refreshingly honest.

  15. Tim Harris
    Posted October 6, 2017 at 8:46 am
    Well, well, Matt certainly seems to be demonstrating that racism is alive and well in the USA.

    Tim Harris
    Posted October 8, 2017 at 7:55 am
    He doesn’t need any amount of ‘intent’. Matt’s mind is made up. White cops matter.

    Tim, you are not debating in good faith. I noted the correct legal terminology — charge of ‘negligent manslaughter’, verdict of ‘justifiable homicide’. In response, you’ve made ad hominem attacks against me, including an accusation of racism.

    I again will ask you to recant or repudiate the racism accusation. I am very serious about this.

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