Videos of the woman shot dead in the Capitol

January 7, 2021 • 11:30 am

These videos are disturbing, and the second one a bit gory, so watch them at your discretion. They purport to be videos of the woman who was shot dead at the Capitol yesterday. You’ll have to watch the first one on YouTube but the link will take you there.

It look as though she was shot for trying to break through a window. Did she deserve to die for that? Was she even armed?

You be the judge. As usual, we should wait for more information before coming to a final decision, and that information will surely be forthcoming. There must surely be an investigation.

Here’s another view, from a different angle. I am just presenting this as another view; I neither agree nor disagree with the tweet’s caption.

Kerfuffle escalates at Northwestern University; students call for President’s resignation

October 22, 2020 • 10:00 am

Two days ago I reported that the President of Northwestern University {NU), Morton Schapiro, wrote a letter to the university community decrying the vandalism and obstructionism of protestors who are trying to get NU to disband its police force. He asserted that “while the University has every intention to continue improving NUPD, we have absolutely no intention to abolish it,” decried the protestors who camped illegally outside his house, criticized them for chanting obscenities outside his house (including calling him a “pig,” which he construed as anti-Semitic), and, at the end, expressed his willingness to engage in peaceful dialogue but added “I refuse to engage with individuals who continue to use the tactics of intimidation and violence.”

It was a remarkable letter given the tendency of university administrators to truckle and grovel before student demands, particularly on issues that bear on race—as the police issue does.  (The students argue that the NU police intimidate and terrorize black students.) Our Provost wrote a similar response after her house was picketed and she (of Chinese ancestry) was subject to racist slurs. Provost Lee also declared that the University of Chicago is not going to get rid of its campus police. (For those non-Americans unfamiliar with university police, yes, we have them and in some cases, as with our own police, we need them, particularly at large schools that take substantial policing and are located in high-crime areas.)

Of course, Schapiro’s refusal to abase himself enraged the students, and now an entire NU department, that of African American Studies, has published an equally strong (but to me, not equally convincing) response, and the students are calling on Schapiro to resign unless he meets all their demands.  These events are reported in two articles in the campus newspaper the Daily Northwestern, and you can read them by clicking on the screenshots below.


There’s not much new in the article, really, except for a few things. First, the second article gives a link to a response to Schapiro by an entire department of Northwestern. More on that in a second.

Contrary to Schapiro’s suggestion that the protestors may have included some “outside agitators” as well as students (I think he intended this to soften his accusations), the group denies any outside agitation. From the first article:

The organizers pushed back against Schapiro’s contention that their campaign purposely provokes police officers and that they are “outside agitators.” The group connected that language to President Donald Trump’s suggestion that Black Lives Matter protesters were paid actors and southern politicians deriding Civil Rights organizers as communist agitators.

Okay, then, we’ll assume that the vast majority of protestors are NU students.

Second, there’s a ludicrous response to Shapiro’s strong statement about the protestors below:

I ask the protestors to consider how their parents and siblings would feel if a group came to their homes in the middle of the night to wake up their families with such vile and personal attacks. To those protesters and their supporters who justify such actions, I ask you to take a long hard look in the mirror and realize that this isn’t actually “speaking truth to power” or furthering your cause. It is an abomination and you should be ashamed of yourselves.

. . . If you haven’t yet gotten my point, I am disgusted by those who chose to disgrace this University in such a fashion. I especially condemn the effect of their actions on our friends, neighbors and other members of our community who are trying to sustain viable businesses, raise families, study and do research, while facing a global pandemic and the injustices of the world without losing their sense of humanity.

As the paper reports, the protest group NU Community Not Cops responded this way:

They added that it’s an insult for Schapiro to draw on “racist, coded language” like “abomination” and vile.” Questioning whether Black protestors had “lost their sense of humanity” is inherently anti-Black, the group wrote.

Schapiro said nothing about black protestors; he was referring to the protestors in general. And words like “abomination” and “vile” are most definitely not “racist coded language.” This shows that the protestors will glom onto and exaggerate anything if it fits their narrative about race.

Finally, having survived the Sixties well aware that “pig” is a derogatory term for “cop”, I don’t think Schapiro should have implied that applying the term to him was anti-Semitic. I just think he was a bit clueless. But it was a still a vile abomination to call the president a “pig”. The protesting organization responded (from the NU paper):

Schapiro’s suggestion that “pig” is an anti-Semitic term stems from a medieval trope wherein Jewish people were depicted by European countries as engaging in lewd relations with pigs. NU Community Not Cops said they find it “absurd” for Schapiro to suggest that protesters were invoking this trope and not the word “pig” as it refers to the modern slang term about police.

NU Community Not Cops leaders condemned anti-Semitism in their statement, saying that their use of the term “pig” relates to the generations-long practice of Black radical movements invoking the structural violence presented by the police. Members of the campaign called Schapiro a pig, they said, because he has prioritized police and private property “over the lives of Black students.”

“We called Morty a pig because he’s a f–king cop,” one organizer said Monday night. “Can we get some oinks?”

Well, that’s an improvement, isn’t it?

At any rate, of greater interest—and import—is the letter from the Department of African American Studies to Schapiro, which you can find here.  It’s signed by the Faculty and Affiliates of the African American Studies Department, which implies that, at least among the faculty, there was no dissent.

The letter is the usual melange of assertions about harm, structural racism, and so on, and is striking in that despite its vehement assertions about violence, harm, and undue policing of black students, it gives no example, and only once piece of data (see below). As usual, I suspect that most of the assertions are simple grievances without much support. Here are a few statements that sound strongly like exaggerations:

Perhaps we are saddest given that this denunciation is the most full throated expression of “disgust” or call for “accountability” that we have heard from you or your office over the last 6 months—months in which our University and our country have seen so many displays of actual violence against Black people, Indigenous people, Asian and Asian American people, Latinx people, international students, transgender people, people with the temerity to wear masks, queer people, people speaking Spanish in public, and other marginalized groups nearly too numerous to name. Here at Northwestern, Black students wrote to you on June 3 and the Department of African American Studies wrote to you on October 15 detailing concerns about police violence and structural racism at Northwestern, and outlining a long list of remedies. Both were, at best, met with a pusillanimous response.

If there has been “so many” displays of violence by the University against minority people, not to mention against people waring masks, I don’t know about them. What is the “actual violence”? Was it real violence or only words? We don’t know.

They also drag in Trump’s misguided threat to withdraw funding from universities that teach Critical Race Theory (CRT), though, in mentioning it, the Department implies that CRT is essential for their antiracist scholarship. (By the way, Trump’s threat did not “criminalize” the teaching of CRT, much less the work of Northwesterns African American Studies Department.)

It is offensive in the extreme to read your prompt and strongly worded denunciation of nonviolent student protests given that there was NO letter denouncing the remote Zoom attack on the University’s Women’s Center this past spring, despite the vile and criminal child pornography that accompanied this attack, and NO letter reassuring Northwestern’s faculty of color—and all faculty who have dedicated their lives to writing, researching, and teaching antiracist scholarship—that the White House’s recent executive order criminalizing our work would find no purchase here. Even the police’s killing of George Floyd in Minnesota, which many people denounced months ago as nothing short of municipally-sanctioned murder, became, in your exceedingly brief statement, their “fatal mistreatment” of an unarmed man.

This is what it’s come to: unless Schapiro mouths the words that the death of George Floyd was “municipally sanctioned murder,” he’s toast. But we don’t even know whether Floyd’s murder (and it was a homicide) was motivated by racism. Further, there’s the implicit mission that CRT is the basis of the department, and I feel sorry for its students, who are clearly experiencing ideologically uncontested brainwashing.

The one complaint that does deserve investigation is the claim (also made against our own campus police) that the NU police come down disproportionately on minority students. If that’s the case, and if it’s not because minority students are involved in more incidents that require summoning the cops, then this needs to be investigated, and, if there’s bigotry, the police must be trained to be equitable. But the following still has the air of hyperbole.

To read your damning letter to students in this context forces us to hear the shallowness of your concerns and priorities with excruciating clarity. It is beyond tone deaf for you to ask this group of protesters to imagine what it would be like for their families to be disturbed in the middle of the night “by such vile and personal attacks.” In the wake of the murder of Breonna Taylor—who was shot and killed in her own home while sleeping in her bed in the middle of the night, and afforded no justice even in death—this is precisely what Black and brown people have been imagining and experiencing. These images are regularly, consistently accompanied and occasioned by the specter of the police’s terrifying power, and their failure to serve or protect communities of color. Here on campus, reporting by the Daily Northwestern documents the disproportionate policing of Black students. Whereas Black students comprise roughly 6 percent of the student population, 22-40% of NUPD field-initiated stops over the past two years have been of Black people.

At last we have a statistic, and I assume it’s the case. What we need to know is how many of the stops included students versus other people in Evanston (at the U of C, the police serve a huge area of largely black people not on campus), and whether the disproportionality reflects racism versus the alternative of Black students being involved in more reported incidents. If the former, then something needs to be done.

Finally, the letter goes after Schapiro for personalizing the debate by saying that “pigs” was anti-Semitic, but that his discomfort must pale before that of the anger of the students who constantly have “nightmarish experiences.” At the end, the letter states, “We condemn your failure to lead and imbue Northwestern with a grander and more humane vision for the present and the future.”

While the Department’s response is histrionic and full of hyperbole, the police issue needs to be (and I hope is) getting investigated. But in the meantime, Schapiro is right in that NU should be improving its campus police but not abolishing them.

What makes this serious is that an entire department has turned against the college President. What with the students calling for Schapiro’s resignation, and the protests continuing (yes, there was illegal activity, window-breaking, graffiti, and so on), Schapiro’s job may be in jeopardy.

I hope not, for there are precious few college administrators willing to stand up to offended and woke students. If Schapiro goes, it’s a message to all college presidents that they must grovel before the demands of their students, even if those demands are unreasonable.

The President of Northwestern University is mad as hell at woke students, and he’s not going to take it anymore

October 20, 2020 • 9:30 am

I got hold of this email sent yesterday by the president of Northwestern University, a prestigious school just north of Chicago.  In the past few weeks, woke students have been disrupting the town and the campus, demanding the abolition of the University police force, and this is his response.

It starts off, like many of these things, paying tribute to the Black Lives Matter protests and making political statements that would never fly at the University of Chicago. Well, given what he says in toto, that’s fine.

But then, after this ritual obeisance to the movement, President Morton Shapiro, an economist, lets loose. While supporting peaceful protests, he then lights into protestors for disrupting the community and vandalizing property, “violating laws and University standards.”  He’s not talking about civil disobedience, either: the lawbreakers do not want or expect to be arrested for calling attention to moral injustice. (He does note, as a sop, that “some of the instigators appear not to be Northwestern students at all, but outside activists”.) But surely many of them are from his own school.

And, like the University of Chicago, where misguided students held a weeklong protest in front of our Provost’s house (without getting the University to budge on their “demands”), Northwestern students did the same thing in front of Morton’s house.  They even painted slurs in front of his house that could be interpreted as anti-Semitic, just as the protestors at the University of Chicago painted “Fuck your mother” in front of our Provost’s house in Chinese (she’s of Chinese ancestry), adding a “parking space for racists” painted in front of her house. In what world do protestors think that such tactics will be effective? Protests in front of private residences, by the way, are illegal in Illinois, and it’s a testimony to the patience of our Provost and of Shapiro that they didn’t have the cops clear the protestors away from their houses.

And, like Provost Lee at the University of Chicago, Morton absolutely refuses to consider disbanding the Northwestern University police department.

Note the very strong language that Morton uses—as well he should.

This is a model for letter that should be written to authoritarian, spoiled, entitled protesting students by a College President. He leaves the door open for discussion, but, as Howard Beale said in the movie Network, adds a distinct note of “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore.

I’ve put my favorite bits in bold.

Dear members of the Northwestern community,

Over the weekend I received many messages of concern about protests organized by some of our students, among others, who are demanding the abolition of the Northwestern University Police Department.

We, as a University, recognize the many injustices faced by Black and other marginalized groups. We also acknowledge that the policing and criminal justice system in our country is too often stacked against those same communities. Your concerns are valid and necessary, and we encourage and, in fact, rely on your active engagement with us to make your school and our society equitable and safe for everyone. That said, while the University has every intention to continue improving NUPD, we have absolutely no intention to abolish it. 

Northwestern firmly supports vigorous debate and the free expression of ideas — abiding principles that are fundamental for our University. We encourage members of our community to find meaningful ways to get involved and advocate for causes they believe in — and to do so safely and peacefully. The University protects the right to protest, but we do not condone breaking the law.

What started as peaceful protests have recently grown into expressions that have been anything but peaceful or productive. Crowds blocked the streets of downtown Evanston and nearby residential areas, disrupting businesses and local families, defacing property and violating laws and University standards. Some of the instigators appear not to be Northwestern students at all, but rather outside activists.

While the protesters claim that they are just trying to get our attention, that is simply not true. Several administrators — including our Provost, Deans, Interim Chief Diversity Officer and Vice Presidents for Research and Student Affairs — have held numerous discussions with concerned students, faculty and staff, and I am participating in a community dialogue tomorrow evening that was scheduled weeks ago.

Events in recent days seem to indicate an intent by organizers to escalate matters, and to provoke NUPD into retaliation. 

I condemn, in the strongest possible terms, the overstepping of the protesters. They have no right to menace members of our academic and surrounding communities. When students and other participants are vandalizing property, lighting fires and spray-painting phrases such as “kill the pigs,” we have moved well past legitimate forms of free speech.  

I want to offer a personal illustration of the pain these protesters have caused. Many gathered outside my home this weekend into the early hours of the morning, chanting “f— you Morty” and “piggy Morty.” The latter comes dangerously close to a longstanding trope against observant Jews like myself. Whether it was done out of ignorance or out of anti-Semitism, it is completely unacceptable, and I ask them to consider how their parents and siblings would feel if a group came to their homes in the middle of the night to wake up their families with such vile and personal attacks. To those protesters and their supporters who justify such actions, I ask you to take a long hard look in the mirror and realize that this isn’t actually “speaking truth to power” or furthering your cause. It is an abomination and you should be ashamed of yourselves.

An essential aspect of education is the discernment of actions and consequences. If you, as a member of the Northwestern community, violate rules and laws, I am making it abundantly clear that you will be held accountable. 

If you haven’t yet gotten my point, I am disgusted by those who chose to disgrace this University in such a fashion. I especially condemn the effect of their actions on our friends, neighbors and other members of our community who are trying to sustain viable businesses, raise families, study and do research, while facing a global pandemic and the injustices of the world without losing their sense of humanity.

I remain as open and willing as ever to speak to any member of the Northwestern family who has concerns about the safety of this campus and everyone who is part of it. But I refuse to engage with individuals who continue to use the tactics of intimidation and violence.

Morton Schapiro
President and Professor

With the two most prestigious universities in Chicago making similar statements, I’m hoping that they will serve as examples for other, more pusillanimous administrators, like those at Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Williams.

Maybe this ludicrous behavior by students is due to the pandemic: peevish people with too much time on their hands. Protest is perfectly fine, so long as it’s peaceful, but the Northwestern protestors crossed the line. And if you practice civil disobedience, breaking the law to make a point, you must break the law peacefully, without arson, looting, violence, and defacing property. And never, never, use ethnic slurs against administrators—that makes you the racists.

You go, Morty!

Is violence necessary for racial equality?

October 1, 2020 • 10:15 am

Reader Enrico called my attention to the New York Times article below, in which editorial-board member Farah Stockman reports that a lot of violence connected with social-justice demonstrations was done neither by black protestors nor by right-wing white supremacists trying to gin up incidents that would turn people towards Trump and away from the Left.  No, it was managed and carried out largely by a group of largely white “insurrectionary anarchists” operating in Portland, Seattle and Washington, D.C., who had somewhat unclear aims. The goal was to change society to eliminate its hierarchical nature, but beyond that the “utopia” wasn’t specified.

As Stockman notes:

That’s the thing about “insurrectionary anarchists.” They make fickle allies. If they help you get into power, they will try to oust you the following day, since power is what they are against. Many of them don’t even vote. They are experts at unraveling an old order but considerably less skilled at building a new one. That’s why, even after more than 100 days of protest in Portland, activists do not agree on a set of common policy goals.

Even some anarchists admit as much.

“We are not sure if the socialist, communist, democratic or even anarchist utopia is possible,” a voice on “The Ex-Worker” podcast intones. “Rather, some insurrectionary anarchists believe that the meaning of being an anarchist lies in the struggle itself and what that struggle reveals.”

In other words, it’s not really about George Floyd or Black lives, but insurrection for insurrection’s sake.

Well, read the article by clicking on the screenshot:


The motivations, actions, and philosophy of the anarchists were uncovered by photographer Jeremy Lee Quinn, who, while on furlough, discovered that a lot of the violence was being stage-managed by a group of white black-clad people wearing similar masks. He then masqueraded as one of them for four months, and discovered that their goals and methods, revealed on the fascinating website Crimethinc, involved inducing violence (rioting, looting, arson, etc.) that itself would provoke counterviolence by police. The counterviolence, in turn, would gin up sympathy to the goals of the peaceful protestors.  The anarchists thought that their actions advanced the cause of “racial justice,” and were successful in causing violence and getting away with it by hiding amidst the “peaceful, legitimate” protestors.

Quinn documents his association with the “black bloc” on his website Public Report.

What intrigued me about this article was Stockman’s suggestion that the violence actually helped achieve the aims of the peaceful protestors, and did so by frightening citizens into aiding and donating to organizations that used peaceful techniques (my emphases):

There’s an even thornier truth that few people seem to want to talk about: Anarchy got results.

Don’t get me wrong. My heart broke for the people in Minneapolis who lost buildings to arson and looting. Migizi, a Native American nonprofit in Minneapolis, raised more than $1 million to buy and renovate a place where Native American teenagers could learn about their culture — only to watch it go up in flames, alongside dozens of others, including a police station. It can take years to build a building — and only one night to burn it down.

And yet, I had to admit that the scale of destruction caught the media’s attention in a way that peaceful protests hadn’t. How many articles would I have written about a peaceful march? How many months would Mr. Quinn have spent investigating suburban moms kneeling? That’s on us.

While I feared that the looting and arson would derail the urgent demands for racial justice and bring condemnation, I was wrong, at least in the short term. Support for Black Lives Matter soared. Corporations opened their wallets. It was as if the nation rallied behind peaceful Black organizers after it saw the alternative, like whites who flocked to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. after they got a glimpse of Malcolm X.

But as the protests continue, support has flagged. The percentage of people who say they support the Black Lives Matter movement has dropped from 67 percent in June to 55 percent, according to a recent Pew poll.

Well, I’d take issue with the claim that Martin Luther King’s cause was advanced significantly by people fearing the implicit violence of Black Muslims. What got King’s cause advanced was not only the force of his words, but his reliance on peaceful protest, gleaned from Gandhi, which met with police violence—clubbing, water hoses, and attack dogs. It was the sight of people in a just cause being brutalized by racists that finally got the Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed. There is nothing more moving than people being brutalized while advocating a clearly just cause, and doing it peacefully.

Still, violence was an important part of the mix, and King’s associates not only expected it but wanted it.  They knew the effect that Alabama cops and their nightsticks would have on the public when those clubs descended on the heads of people practicing both legal protest and peaceful civil disobedience—people simply asking for their rights.

One could thus assert that some kind of violence was a sine qua non for racial justice in the Sixties. We don’t know for sure, as this is not a controlled experiment, but it is plausible. It’s a bit less plausible, at least to me, that the riots, looting, and arson that accompanied the current demonstrations helped the causes espoused by Black Lives Matter (there are several parts of its platform).

The question, then, is whether violence is a key ingredient in advancing racial justice in America—whether the violence be by police or running-dog anarchists. And we don’t know the answer, though I suppose anecdotes can be advanced on either side. (Lynchings, for example, which horrified anti-racists, are also violence, while King’s March on Washington and “I have a dream” speech were neither civil disobedience or violence.)

One can look to other places, though this doesn’t answer the question about America. One might, for example, argue that violence wasn’t necessary to get India out from under the colonialist heel of Britain, even though some violence before the forties did advance the cause of Indian indepencence. (I refer to the Jallianwalla Bagh massacre of 1919, which involved British soldiers massacring unarmed and peaceful Indians.) But by the forties, no violence was really necessary for the Brits to quit India, for that egress was in the cards anyway. And the impetus, of course, was the nonviolence of Gandhi and his followers.

But India isn’t America, and perhaps the powers that be in the U.S. require a demonstration of brutality to gain people their rights. I don’t really think that’s the case, for, despite the Stonewall riots, I’m convinced that gay rights were inevitable, even without violence. And women gained their rights without much violence from the authorities, and with no violence from women.  As a pacifist, I reject violence by people as a valid means to moral progress except in drastic situations like wartime (World War II might be an example). But whether violence by authorities is required, well, that’s a different kettle of fish.

Weigh in below.


University of Chicago 1, cop-defunder students 0

September 8, 2020 • 8:45 am

Well, one things this past week has shown is that Hyde Park is not Portland, and thank Ceiling Cat for that! Starting a week ago Saturday, a University of Chicago student group called Care Not Cops began demonstrating—or rather, camping out—in the street and sidewalks in front of Provost Ka Yee C. Lee’s house, just north of Hyde Park in Kenwood.  They vowed to stay there indefinitely until the Provost met with them publicly and gave in to their demands.

What were their demands? They’re listed here, and, as the group’s name implies, they want the University of Chicago Police Force disarmed, defunded and then disbanded (by 2022; this is a new demand), largely replaced by social and psychiatric services that, they think, will prevent the need for police and could even respond to emergency calls. This was all prompted by the case of a mentally ill University student who attacked police with an iron pipe in 2018 and was shot in the shoulder.  Since then the student has had other episodes and is now in Cook County Jail. For the life of me, I can neither see how social workers could have resolved that incident (the student went down the block smashing cars and windows and screaming expletives), nor how the police, who could have been bashed with that pipe, did anything wrong. They shot the student in a way to disable but not seriously hurt him.

Anyway, you can see more demands in these threads, as well as some of the anger borne by the students:

I’ve been here for 34 years and I still don’t recognize the “particularly violent campus” described by protestors. Of course I’m not black, and haven’t experienced the “profiling” that the group claims, but I do follow the campus news and think that this group, like many protest groups, grossly exaggerate the nature of the “problem”. Note that Care Not Cops has also rescinded their offer to meet Lee publicly.

(Sources for this story are local news stations, local newspapers, and the Chicago Maroon, the student newspaper.)

A group of several dozen students began their sit-in in front of the Provost’s house on August 29. Picketing in front of residences is illegal in Chicago, and the Provost could have had the students removed, but she and the University decided to let them stay rather than have the cops boot them. They camped out in front of Lee’s house, chanted, and painted several offensive bits of graffiti on the street and sidewalk. An example is below; the photo has left out the “fuck your mother” slogan painted in Cantonese. (Lee speaks perfect English, and the Chinese slogans could easily be construed as racist.)


Avi Waldman and CareNotCops / The Chicago Maroon

As the Chicago Maroon reported:

Translated into English, one set of characters means “you do not have face,” or more colloquially, “don’t you care about your reputation?” Another, not pictured, contained a Cantonese vulgarity that, in English, means “fuck your mother.”

This was clearly not calculated to make the Provost more amenable to their demands; instead, as you’ll see below, she was angered by this, as well she should have been. Still, she didn’t call the cops, though she could easily have done so. That was admirable restraint.

An important part of the students’ demands was that Lee meet with them publicly in a face to face confrontation that could be recorded. Lee countered by offering to meet with the leaders and later have a Zoom meeting. And then, after several days of this mishigass, Dr. Lee issued a statement that was strong and uncompromising. First, she makes her offer, which is reasonable, and then shows that she’s angered by the students’ behavior:

I have offered to meet with the protesters. In fact, since their occupation of the UCPD headquarters on June 11, we have communicated a standing invitation for representatives of the group to meet with me. We reiterated that offer again this week. However, they have refused, insisting that even the initial meeting must be conducted in a public forum and focus on how to implement their demand to defund and disband the UCPD. They have rejected a constructive dialogue about their concerns and the UCPD.

Unfortunately, the actions that are currently taking place on my doorstep go beyond any civil bounds. In addition to engaging in unlawful residential picketing for three days, protestors have harassed and directed personal attacks and vulgar language at my family members and me, verbally and in writing, and blocked traffic for community members on my block. They have spray painted offensive messages in both English and Chinese on my street and outside my home.

. . As President Zimmer and I noted in an August 12 message to members of the University community, we are committed to examining our public safety function and ways in which community services provided by the University, including security and policing, can be improved. Through the earlier mentioned process, we will consider specific recommendations for UCPD and other public safety measures, and how the University can support public safety through its research, education, services, and programs. We plan to share the outcome of these discussions with the University community in a town hall designed to help develop additional actions in areas of concern.

And then she lowers the boom by asserting that there is no way the University will disband the police. The campus cops are numerous, have police powers, and are essential in keeping the campus safe on the not-exactly-safe South Side. If they disbanded the cops—and the protestors don’t seem to realize this—not only would the campus become more unsafe, but parents wouldn’t send their kids here. An army of social workers prowling the streets won’t stop that. Sometimes I think this whole movement doesn’t know anything about reality.

Lee’s response to the Big Demand:

The protesters have stated their opposition to the existence of the UCPD. While we are committed to working constructively on public safety, I want to be clear that the University has no intention of disbanding the UCPD. The UCPD provides a vital service in helping to keep safe and support our campus and surrounding communities – a mission that the University has undertaken with the encouragement of community members and leaders and in accordance with Chicago City Ordinance. That role will continue.

That must really tick off Care Not Cops, as it’s a flat rejection of their most important demand.

The denouement, as the Hyde Park Herald reports, happened on Friday evening. The Chicago Police (not the UC police) showed up at the protest site, told the demonstrators it was illegal for them to block the street, and then asked them to disperse. The protestors formed a line across the street, facing a line of police, and then the cops told them a second time that they had to disperse. Finally, they said that they they would begin arresting demonstrators after the third request. That’s when the demonstrators realized that they not only couldn’t win, but were in over their heads.

This is where our timorous students differ from the protestors in Portland: they were unwilling to be arrested, even in a peaceful act of civil disobedience. But I consider this a good outcome in that violence was avoided, which would have been bad for both the students’ cause as well as the University. The students marched around a bit and chanted, and then decided to march back to the campus police headquarters. That lasted for a short while and the demonstrators went home. And then the residuum of the demonstration was ignominiously carted away:

As they left the occupation site, city workers from the Department of Streets and Sanitation began loading objects from the encampment into a pickup truck. By the end of the evening, all that remained of the occupation was a pile of traffic cones and sandbags from the dismantled barricade.

But it ain’t over yet, even though the protestors’ main cause is officially futile. Alicia Hurtado, an organizer with Care Not Cops, tried to put a good face on the situation:

“We know that we’re coming out from this more powerful. We know that they’re scared of us, because we are on the right side of history,” said Hurtado. “We are on the right side of justice, and the only question that we have for them is — will you be on the right side of justice?”

“You know what’s starting in just a couple of weeks? UChicago’s fall quarter. You know what that means? We’ll have a campus of people that are ready to throw down alongside us. Look at all these people in this circle. We have all these ready to throw down alongside you,” Hurtado continued.

“To President Robert Zimmer, to Provost Ka Yee Lee, to UCPD Chief Kenton Rainey, to the Board of Trustees, to every UChicago administrator — see you in the fall!”

After making the statement, most of the demonstrators left, although a few milled about for a while longer before dispersing.

I guess “throw down” is slang for “join us.” But couching this thing in terms of “the right side of history” is ridiculous.

As you can see, I don’t have much sympathy with the protestors. Their demand to get rid of the campus police is risible. Their plan to replace cops with social and mental-health workers may be useful in some situations, but not the one they always single out.  As for a public meeting, I can see why the Provost wants to avoid that: it would be a yelling and bullying session rather than an exchange of views, which is what the Provost envisioned. But the protestors have abandoned the demand for talks.

I guess this stuff will continue when school starts in a few weeks, but I’m not sure how willing students will be to “throw down” given that they will be under quarantine rules on campus and will be busy starting the school year.

What we have here is a lesson about how a university should respond to unconscionable demands. How often do we see any school tell the students something like “the University has no intention of disbanding the UCPD”?

Berkeley chancellor’s statement on Milo Yiannopoulos’s upcoming visit: it’s free speech

January 28, 2017 • 10:50 am

Next Wednesday, February 1, the ever-unruly Milo Yiannopoulos, Breitbart editor, provocateur, “alt-righter”, and reliable inciter of Regressive Left hatred, will be speaking at the University of California at Berkeley (UCB), invited by the Berkeley College Republicans (a student organization). Yiannopoulos’s talk is part of his continuing “Dangerous Faggot Tour.”

There will surely be trouble, for Milo + Berkeley = Attempted Censorship. (I’m becoming aware that, taking a playbook from some Muslims, campuses and students are starting to call Milo’s appearances “unsafe”—but precisely because students come out en masse to demonstrate in a violent way, and, once inside the auditoriums, to throw tantrums and try to shut the speaker down. If nobody showed up, or simply tried to demonstrate peacefully, the events would come off without a hitch. But that, of course, would take away one of the excuses for trying to ban Milo in the first place. In other words, the threat of violent retaliation for a perceived “hate speech” offense is a sufficient reason to disinvite the speaker.) In fact, twelve UCB professors originally signed a letter asking the Chancellor to cancel the event, and 90 others have added their names since. Here’s what one signatory said:

“We believe wholeheartedly in free speech and in the presentation of views that may be controversial or disturbing, politically or personally,” said David Landreth, one of the 12 professors who authored the letter, in an email. “However, Mr. Yiannopoulos’s public talks routinely veer into direct personal harassment of individuals; they often also call for such harassment and aim to incite it.”

Even if that were true (and I do deplore the singling out of one transgender student in a talk in Wisconsin), that’s not sufficient reason to cancel a talk. Note, too, the “we believe in free speech BUT” trope: the “but” is a sign you’re dealing with Regressive Leftists. And if they believe in free speech for views that may be “personally” disturbing, why do they decry “personal harassment”? If that harassment is defamatory or slanderous, it’s illegal, as it is if it calls for immediate violence. But if personally harassing individuals is a crime, then many comedians would be out of business now (Don Rickles comes to mind). In fact, Milo rarely calls out individual students, and when he does so they are usually “public figures,” as one could argue the Wisconsin student was. Beware, O beware the claim that speech should be band because it involves “personal harassment of individuals.”

As reported by the student newspaper The Daily Californian, Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks wrote a long letter to the campus community addressing Milo’s appearance. The letter is on the paper’s site, but you can access it more easily here. The good part is that Dirks defends Milo’s right to talk as free speech, e.g.:

Since the announcement of Mr. Yiannopoulos’s visit, we have received many requests that we ban him from campus and cancel the event. Although we have responded to these requests directly, we would like to explain to the entire campus community why the event will be held as planned. First, from a legal perspective, the U.S. Constitution prohibits UC Berkeley, as a public institution, from banning expression based on its content or viewpoints, even when those viewpoints are hateful or discriminatory. Longstanding campus policy permits registered student organizations to invite speakers to campus and to make free use of meeting space in the Student Union for that purpose. As mentioned, the BCR is the host of this event, and therefore it is only they who have the authority to disinvite Mr. Yiannopoulos. Consistent with the dictates of the First Amendment as uniformly and decisively interpreted by the courts, the university cannot censor or prohibit events, or charge differential fees. Some have asked us whether attacks on individuals are also protected. In fact, critical statements and even the demeaning ridicule of individuals are largely protected by the Constitution; in this case, Yiannopoulos’s past words and deeds do not justify prior restraint on his freedom of expression or the cancellation of the event.

Berkeley is the home of the Free Speech Movement, and the commitment to free expression is embedded in our Principles of Community as the commitment “to ensur(e) freedom of expression and dialogue that elicits the full spectrum of views held by our varied communities.” As a campus administration, we have honored this principle by defending the right of community members who abide by our campus rules to express a wide range of often-conflicting points of view. We have gone so far as to defend in court the constitutional rights of students of all political persuasions to engage in unpopular expression on campus. Moreover, we are defending the right to free expression at an historic moment for our nation, when this right is once again of paramount importance. In this context, we cannot afford to undermine those rights, and feel a need to make a spirited defense of the principle of tolerance, even when it means we tolerate that which may appear to us as intolerant.

But what I find problematic about Dirks’s letter is the bit where the University not only distances itself from Yiannopoulos’s views, which I guess is okay, but details some University actions that look for all the world like an attempt to “persuade” the College Republicans not to host Milo—or to disinvite him. To me, that smacks of attempted censorship.  Read the excerpt from Dirks’s letter below and tell me what you think; the material after the first paragraph almost sounds like attempted prior restraint:

Like all sponsors of similar events, BCR will be required to reimburse the university for the cost of basic event security. Law enforcement professionals in the UCPD have also explained to the BCR that, consistent with legal requirements, security charges were calculated based on neutral, objective criteria having nothing to do with the speaker’s perspectives, prior conduct on other campuses and/or expected protests by those who stand in opposition to his beliefs, rhetoric and behavior.

In addition, however, we have also clearly communicated to the BCR that we regard Yiannopoulos’s act as at odds with the values of this campus. We have emphasized to them that with their autonomy and independence comes a moral responsibility for the consequences of their words, actions, events and invitations – and those of their guest. We have made sure they are aware of how Yiannopoulos has conducted himself at prior events at other universities, and we have explained that his rhetoric is likely to be deeply upsetting and perceived as threatening by some of their fellow students and members of our campus community. Our student groups enjoy the right to invite whomever they wish to speak on campus, but we urge them to consider whether exercising that right in a manner that might unleash harmful attacks on fellow students and other members of the community is consistent with their own and with our community’s values.

Finally, we have also made the BCR aware that some of those who are opposed to Yiannopoulos’s perspectives and conduct have vowed to mount a substantial protest against his presence on our campus. UCPD has been directed to maintain public safety and to do what it can to prevent disruptions and preserve order. It should be noted that the anticipated cost of those additional preparations and measures will be borne entirely by the campus, and will far exceed the basic security costs that are the responsibility of the hosting organization. We will not stand idly by while laws or university policies are violated, no matter who the perpetrators are.

Nothing we have done to plan for this event should be mistaken as an endorsement of Yiannopoulos’s views or tactics. Indeed, we are saddened that anyone would use degrading stunts or verbal assaults on marginalized members of our society to promote a political platform.

That’s pretty damn paternalistic.

I wonder if the Administration does this when an anti-Israeli speaker comes to campus, or an anti-Palestinian speaker? How often does the administration have a sit-down with any student group and let them know with a nod and a wink that it might be better if they disinvited a speaker or hadn’t invited them in the first place?

Am I wrong, or do you think those words are out of place in Dirks’s letter? I can see why they were included: to show that the University is not on board with Milo’s message, thus trying to soothe the easily-offended students. But why should a University have to say any of this stuff in the first place? This wouldn’t have happened at the University of Chicago, where the administration would never try to position itself politically during a kerfuffle over a speaker.

Finally, below is a picture from a post on the San Francisco site Carpe Diem!calling for people to come out and drive Milo off campus. An excerpt:

Milo Yiannopoulos is a spokesperson for the newly activated far right, an Islamophobic writer for Breitbart, a leader of the Gamergate sexual harassment campaign, and a figurehead for some of the most hateful right-wing elements in Trump’s camp. We should allow no space for his message at UC Berkeley.

We also have to do more than stop one event to prevent these far right elements from recruiting and growing their forces. We have to shut them down and drown out their events in every community they pop up, and we have to undermine them politically as well.

Well, peaceful protest is one thing, but I don’t think this is what this group has in mind. . . .


h/t: Grania

Standing Rock: Has the news about the pipeline protests been slanted?

November 28, 2016 • 10:00 am

To answer the title question first, my response is “I don’t know.” Most of what I’ve learned about the dispute between the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and the government and private companies over the Dakota Access Pipeline has come from social media, which has been universally sympathetic to the Sioux. They, and other sympathizers and Native Americans, are protesting an incursion of an oil pipeline near their reservation (and on lands considered sacred by the tribe). The reason: not only the development on lands considered sacred (but largely in private hands), but mainly that a leak in that pipeline could threaten the Sioux’s drinking water. For several months the Sioux have been peacefully protesting the decision, with the local police and company employees fighting back. It’s been reported that police fired tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, and perhaps water cannons at the protestors, as well as setting attack dogs on them, all of which seems unconscionable given that the Native Americans and their supporters were engaged in civil disobedience, and could have been arrested without the use of these nefarious weapons. The use of everything but water cannons, which has been contested, seems undeniable.

New York Times interacting map shows the course of the pipeline, which runs from Stanley, North Dakota to Patoka, Illinois, shows its long course and giving a capsule history of the project and its critics (click on screenshot as well):

The pipeline, all but built, is meant to ship crude oil from North Dakota to Illinois. Built almost entirely on private property, the pipeline crosses ancestral lands of the Standing Rock Sioux, passing less than a mile from the tribal reservation. Tribe members fear contamination of their drinking water and damage to sacred sites. They are trying to persuade the federal government to deny permits allowing the pipeline to cross the Missouri River near their reservation. Here’s a short version of the map:


Because most of the social media I follow is Leftist or progressive, it’s all been sympathetic to the Sioux and antagonistic to the government. But venues like the New York Times have also published editorials favorable to the protestors (e.g., here and here). My sympathies, then, were all with the Native Americans trying to protect their lands and well-being. It was like going back to the Sixties, when peacefully protesting blacks and civil rights workers were hit by water cannons, tear gas, police dogs, and cops on horses, images that helped bring passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

I still think that civil disobedience should be met by the authorities with civil response, like carrying the protestors as gently as possible to paddy wagons, but now I’ve seen a counter-piece (granted, an op-ed) about the pipeline protests published by a reputable paper, the Orlando Sentinel. The Sentinel, while a conservative paper, has, according to Wikipedia, endorsed the Democratic Presidential candidate in three of the last four elections: Obama, Kerry, and Hillary Clinton.

The opinion piece, called “What those Dakota Access pipeline protestors don’t tell you,” claims that the intransigence of the government and pipeline companies were much overrated and exaggerated by the Native Americans. Here are some excerpts, all quotes from the article (as are the bullet points). Note that the article is by Shawn McCoy, an economist who is probably a Republican, as he worked for Mitt Romney’s campaign. Here’s how the piece begins:

With the help of celebrities and professional activists, protests of the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota have attracted international attention. The shouting and violence have drawn sympathy from people who are hearing only one side of the story — the one told by activists. Were the full story to be heard, much, if not all, of that sympathy would vanish.

The activists tell an emotionally charged tale of greed, racism and misbehavior by corporate and government officials. But the real story of the Dakota Access Pipeline was revealed in court documents in September, and it is nothing like the activists’ tale. In fact, it is the complete opposite.

The record shows that Energy Transfer Partners, the company building the pipeline, spent years working diligently with federal, state and local officials to route the pipeline safely and with the fewest possible disruptions. The contrast between the protesters’ claims and the facts on record is stunning.

And its claims:

  • “Protesters claim that the pipeline was “fast-tracked,” denying tribal leaders the opportunity to participate in the process. In fact, project leaders participated in 559 meetings with community leaders, local officials and organizations to listen to concerns and fine-tune the route. The company asked for, and received, a tougher federal permitting process at sites along the Missouri River. This more difficult procedure included a mandated review of each water crossing’s potential effect on historical artifacts and locations.
  • “Protesters claim that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers failed to consult tribal leaders as required by federal law. The record shows that the corps held 389 meetings with 55 tribes. Corps officials met numerous times with leaders of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, which initiated the lawsuit and the protests.
  • “Protesters claim that the Standing Rock Sioux pursued meetings with an unresponsive Army Corps of Engineers. Court records show that the roles in that story were in fact reversed. The corps alerted the tribe to the pipeline permit application in the fall of 2014 and repeatedly requested comments from and meetings with tribal leaders only to be rebuffed over and over. Tribal leaders ignored requests for comment and canceled meetings multiple times.=
  • “Typical of the misinformation spread during the protests is a comment made by Jesse Jackson, who recently joined the activists in North Dakota. He said the decision to reroute the pipeline so that it crossed close to the Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s water intake was “racism.”He did not mention, possibly because he did not know, that the company is paying to relocate the tribe’s water intake to a new spot 70 miles from the location of the contested pipeline crossing.”The pipeline route was adjusted based on concerns expressed by locals — including other tribal leaders — who met with company and Army Corps of Engineers officials. The court record reveals that the Standing Rock Sioux refused to meet with corps officials to discuss the route until after site work had begun. That work is now 77 percent completed at a cost of $3 billion.”

The article concludes, “Pipeline protesters may have a tight grip on media coverage of the pipeline, but they have a demonstrably loose grip on the facts. The truth — as documented not by the company but by the federal court system — is that pipeline approvals were not rushed, permits were not granted illegally, and tribal leaders were not excluded. These are proven facts upheld by two federal courts.”

Many of the same points were made in a piece called “Standing Rock fact checker“, itself produced by a group called MAIN, which describes itself like this:

The Midwest Alliance for Infrastructure Now (MAIN) is a partnership of entities from the agriculture, business, and labor sectors aimed at supporting the economic development and energy security benefits associated with infrastructure projects in the Midwest. With the domestic energy sector in the midst of an unprecedented boom, the methods by which energy resources are safely transported from “field to market” have never been more important to our nation’s economic well-being, or to our pursuit of energy independence.

So MAIN’s contentions might also be questioned on the grounds of bias. But remember that the other side, too—the Native Americans—are pushing their own narrative. It’s when our sympathies are most engaged by such a narrative that we must be the most skeptical, because all of us are subject to confirmation bias.

The New Yorker has a more sympathetic article that, while not dealing with the issues above (and leaning heavily on claims of the Sioux), does note that the pipeline was supposed to cross the Missouri River near Bismarck, North Dakota, but was rerouted near tribal lands lest a leak ruin Bismarck’s drinking water. That’s reprehensible, for it simply moves the danger from white people’s land to Native American land.

I’m not claiming that all the points in these counter-pieces are correct. And I still think the protestors have been treated abysmally, as have Native Americans in general. I’m generally opposed to the idea of oil pipelines near water sources or ecologically sensitive areas, though I don’t know any other way to efficiently deliver fuel. But if you argue against the points raised above, I ask you to not impugn the sources, but come to grips with the “facts” that they adduce, even if you don’t like them (rather, especially if you don’t like them.) It’s possible that the truth may not be exactly what the emotive pictures on Facebook suggest it is.

At any rate, the issue may soon disappear, as the Army Corps of Engineers has ordered the main protest campsite (and focus of all the attention) closed by December 5.  At that time protestors will be arrested and removed.