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Woodside: Protesters shout down socially conservative rabbi at Canada College event

 

In an echo of the confrontations going on between the political left and right over free speech at the University of California at Berkeley, protesters at Canada Community College in Woodside on April 25 shouted down a conservative speaker.

A snippet from a video shows protesters at the rear of a theater among 200 or so attendees, holding up signs and yelling slogans and chants, drowning out the the words of the speaker, Rabbi Daniel Lapin. Event organizer and Canada student Tommy Beal said in an email that 200 people attended the speech.

The New York Times refers to Mr. Lapin as a socially conservative radio host based in Seattle with "strong ties to the Christian right."

He is the author several books, including "Thou Shall Prosper: Ten Commandments for Making Money," published in 2002, and "Business Secrets from the Bible: Spiritual Success Strategies for Financial Abundance," published in 2014.

The protesters' signs included some profanity and critiqued capitalism, white supremacy, opposition to gay rights and included a handout labeling Mr. Lapin "a misogynist, an Islamophobe, a homophobe, and a capitalist!" as seen in photos provided to the Almanac by Mr. Beal.

The event was sponsored by the on-campus group Young Americans for Freedom, a college spokesperson said. The Young America's Foundation arranged for Mr. Lapin's visit, Mr. Beal said in an emailed statement.

"Education is a right, not just for the rich and white," went one chant, according to Mr. Beal. As the protest continued, he said, "we started a few good anti-chants, such as this: the protestors would say: 'Fascists Racists Go away' (then the audience would say) 'we don’t care what you have to say!' It was the best we could do to make light of this tragic situation."

After about 20 minutes, a smaller group of attendees reconvened in another venue on campus, where the rabbi spoke for about 30 minutes, Mr. Beal said. "It felt like we were all a big happy family who overcame a terrible struggle," he said.

The student code of conduct in the college catalog prohibits disruptive and disorderly behavior and verbal intimidation and harassment, including profanity, noting that disciplinary action may follow.

According to Mr. Beal, the campus head of security, when asked about the possibility of silencing the protesters, replied that they were exercising their right to free speech.

Asked to comment on the protest, college spokeswoman Megan Rodriguez Antone said the college "is gathering information about particular concerns of some attendees and will address any conduct issues directly with students who were involved in attempting to pre-empt the guest speaker."

"The College serves as a supportive learning community where students, faculty and staff are encouraged to share and discuss diverging views in an environment of mutual respect," a college statement said. "The exchange of these diverging views and perspectives contribute greatly to the development of essential knowledge and skills, and is the sign of an educated society."

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Comments

7 people like this
Posted by Sybille
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on May 3, 2017 at 1:20 pm

Dear Editor: is this person a Conservative Jew or is he politically conservative? I find the title of the article confusing. Other than that: no comment as I don't know anything about this man.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: The reference is to politically conservative.]


25 people like this
Posted by John R. Ellis
a resident of Woodside: Skywood/Skylonda
on May 3, 2017 at 1:36 pm

A College professor actively participated in shutting down the speaker. It’s bad enough that callow students interfered with the First Amendment rights of a speaker and his audience, and that College administrators and security stood idly by; but it’s much more serious for a professor to participate in such interference. It’s the professors, after all, who are supposed to be educating the students about their ethical, legal, and civic responsibilities.

Assistant Professor Kristen Parks of the Political Science Department is seen in the videos standing shoulder-to-shoulder in solidarity with the screaming protesters. As she moves next to them, she puts one arm behind a protester reassuringly: Web Link. Then she pats another on the shoulder, and stands in silent support for over five minutes: Web Link .

It’s clear from the videos that Professor Parks was not trying to protect the protesters from violence. She even says as much in The Daily Journal: “People were angry on both sides but I don’t think it was violent … I tend to trust that we are safe here”. Web Link


35 people like this
Posted by gordyvon
a resident of another community
on May 3, 2017 at 1:37 pm

You don't need to know a thing about him politically or religiously - free speech is free speech. Another disgraceful display of intolerance.


13 people like this
Posted by Glenna Hutchings
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on May 3, 2017 at 6:20 pm

The protestors remind me of a young child putting his/her hands over his/her ears and making a making some loud noise so as not to hear what mommy and daddy are saying.


14 people like this
Posted by Joe
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on May 4, 2017 at 2:02 pm

It seems that there are students who are afraid of learning anything that is antithetical to their current ignorance. This is so sad. Shame on the college for allowing this to go on and shame on the instructor who blatantly condoned this protest.


22 people like this
Posted by Free Speech
a resident of Woodside: Family Farm/Hidden Valley
on May 4, 2017 at 2:50 pm

Free speech cuts both ways.

A Glenn Beck acolyte with a history of lies and hate speech against minorities and the LGBT community would not be welcome in any institution I would be a part, without my registering my opinion on his garbage.

One can learn all one needs to know by turning on Beck any night, or listening to Lapin through any number of media outlets.

As to a whackjob bombthrower like Coulter or Lapin deliberately using inflammatory speech to raise a ruckus? Look at Lapin's own words, comparing a Pride parade to Nazis:

"This was the Nazis marching in Skokie"
6 April, 2005, from an article in the Jewish Telegraphic Agency

And imagine if we substitute any religion for word "atheist" in Lapin's claim: "atheists are parasites"

No thanks. I wouldn't keep quiet either if I knew this hatemonger was on the menu.


10 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 4, 2017 at 2:54 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

free speech:

no one says you have to keep quiet. You just don't have the right to shut down someone else's speech no matter how distasteful you find it.


11 people like this
Posted by John R. Ellis
a resident of Woodside: Skywood/Skylonda
on May 4, 2017 at 8:24 pm

If you're dismayed by the protesters' illegal interference with the First Amendment rights of the speaker and audience, by the professor who stood in solidarity with the protesters, and by the college's inaction, please voice your opinion at the upcoming Board of Trustees meeting of the San Mateo County Community College District:

Wednesday May 10 6:00 pm
Skyline College, Bldg. 6, Rm. 6202
3300 College Dr., San Bruno

There will be an agenda item, "Discussion of Policy on Time, Place and Manner", during which the public and the board will discuss this event and what the board should do about it. Anyone can speak for up to three minutes, using Powerpoint slides and printed handouts if you want. Even if you don't want to speak, your presence will emphasize to the board that most students, residents, and taxpayers are quite concerned.


13 people like this
Posted by Ranch Gal
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on May 4, 2017 at 10:58 pm

I am absolutely thoroughly disgusted with the whining crybaby students who continuously just disrupt the First Amendment. Everyone has a right to be heard and voice their opinion in an orderly and thoughtful manner. If you don't like the speaker do not attend the speech. Do not cover yourself in the radical left wing fascist black garb, and covering your head with a mask to create mayhem and destroy public and private property just like they did in Nazi Germany. This is pure left radical fascism and harkins back to World War II in Germany. If Hitler did not like your speech he immediately threw you in prison.So tragic and sad. And these criminals today are never disciplined. If they are caught by police they go to court and they plead it from a felony down to a misdemeanor and get a $50 fine. Absolutely ridiculous. These radical vandals need to serve hard time when they destroy public and private property! They know that there are no consequences. Also perhaps due to bad and permissive parenting with no accountability. I will be there at the meeting to support freedom of speech for everyone NOT for just those who are supported by the left.


27 people like this
Posted by red headed stranger
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on May 5, 2017 at 1:27 am

And next week, we're hosting racists and homophobes to "educate" the tax payer funded community college students.

But don't object, for heaven's sake!

No whining!

No protests!


11 people like this
Posted by John R. Ellis
a resident of Woodside: Skywood/Skylonda
on May 5, 2017 at 2:15 pm

John R. Ellis is a registered user.

"But don't object, for heaven's sake! No whining! No protests!"

Students have a First Amendment right to protest any speaker they want, and they should absolutely protest speakers with whom they violently disagree. But there is no First Amendment right to prevent an audience from hearing the speaker. Students can protest outside noisily and visibly outside the venue, as long as they don't block or intimidate people from entering. They can protest noisily but briefly inside the venue; they can boo or hiss occasionally; they can hold up signs silently (as long as they don't block the view); they can stand silently and turn their backs (ditto). But they can't substantially interfere with the First Amendment right of the audience to hear the speaker. If they do, they can be arrested and charged under California Penal Code 403 for disrupting a meeting.

“The freedom to speak and the freedom to hear are inseparable; they are two sides of the same coin.” -- Thurgood Marshall


2 people like this
Posted by Jack Hickey
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on May 6, 2017 at 11:51 am

Jack Hickey is a registered user.

“The freedom to speak and the freedom to hear are inseparable; they are two sides of the same coin.” -- Thurgood Marshall

What about the freedom "not to hear" or "not to speak"? The latter is evident in the Miranda rights. A violation of the former occurs frequently in government school environments.
I presume that the 200 attendees were willing listeners of the Rabii's speech. The disruptors were unwilling listeners exercising their freedom of speech in violation of the 200 who did not come to listen them.


8 people like this
Posted by John R. Ellis
a resident of Woodside: Skywood/Skylonda
on May 6, 2017 at 2:06 pm

John R. Ellis is a registered user.

"What about the freedom 'not to hear'"
"The disruptors were unwilling listeners"

There is no such right under the Constitution. No one forced the protesters to attend, and no one forced them to stay. No one has ever won a court case saying they voluntarily sat in an audience and was offended by the speaker.


6 people like this
Posted by Jack Hickey
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on May 7, 2017 at 8:15 am

Jack Hickey is a registered user.

The 200 were voluntarily there to hear the Rabbi. They were, for the most part, forced to listen to the speech of the protesters who had hijacked the event.


16 people like this
Posted by Western Hillsider
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on May 7, 2017 at 10:39 am

Western Hillsider is a registered user.

I have a slightly different take on this event. The current political climate in this country has enabled extreme true believers to such a degree that many non-conformists believe that their very existence is threatened. So when speakers with the rabbi's intellectual record get a respectable platform at a public venue, the opposition comes out to nip the holocaust (inquisition, purge, pogrom, genocide, etc.) in the bud instead of waiting until they're herded into the gas chambers. As long as they don't shatter glass, these types of protesters are legally exercising their right to self defense by speaking out. It may not be pretty but it's 100% the American way.


4 people like this
Posted by John R. Ellis
a resident of Woodside: Skywood/Skylonda
on May 7, 2017 at 11:12 am

John R. Ellis is a registered user.

"As long as they don't shatter glass, these types of protesters are legally exercising their right to self defense by speaking out.these types of protesters are legally exercising their right to self defense by speaking out"

Our Constitution and laws do not allow protesters to shut down a speaker. As described in my previous post, there is a First Amendment right to protest a speaker whose ideas you find offensive, vile, or threatening. But there is no First Amendment right to exercise the "heckler's veto" and interfere with the First Amendment rights of the speaker and audience.

For example, in 2015 the 6th Circuit issued summary judgment against Wayne County Michigan and deputy police chiefs for failing to take action when a riotous mob of teenagers forced Christian proselytizers to leave the International Arab American fair. The prosyletizers public statements were quite hateful and offensive to many of the attendees. The court found the deputy chiefs personally liable for failing to prevent the heckler's veto (that is, they did not have the qualified immunity normally attached to government officials).


11 people like this
Posted by Western Hillsider
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on May 7, 2017 at 12:14 pm

Western Hillsider is a registered user.

Mr. Ellis, thanks for the Fifth Circuit citation. However, Dave Boyce's article doesn't say anything about a "riotous mob." He describes a lot of rude hollering and profane signs (apparently the college is investigating whether the line between legitimate protest and violence was crossed). The speaker and his organizers were the ones who decided to "shut down" the event instead of responding to the opposing arguments. It's pretty easy to be outraged and take your marbles home when those who disagree with you show up to express their opinions and a lot harder to try to bring rational control to an unpleasant situation.


8 people like this
Posted by Western Hillsider
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on May 7, 2017 at 12:16 pm

Western Hillsider is a registered user.

Sorry, Sixth Circuit. It still doesn't apply.


2 people like this
Posted by John R. Ellis
a resident of Woodside: Skywood/Skylonda
on May 7, 2017 at 9:37 pm

John R. Ellis is a registered user.

1) The protesters shut down the speaker illegally and in violation of District policies, and 2) the 2015 opinion by the Sixth Circuit applies when protesters shut down speech and the government doesn't take reasonable steps to prevent it.

* * *

1. The videos and written accounts of attendees clearly show that the protesters successfully prevented the speaker from speaking to the audience. At first, the speaker tries to engage the protestors in a rational discussion, but they refuse to participate and start screaming their chant over and over. The speaker tries to speak over the screaming, but it's hard to hear, and after many minutes, much of the audience leaves in disgust.

The organizers reported that the VP of Student Services refused to have the protesters removed, saying incorrectly they had a First Amendment right to protest as they were doing. After about 20 minutes, the organizers found a smaller room and secretly moved the speaker and a portion of the original audience there.

The protestors behavior violated California Penal Code 403, making it a misdemeanor to disrupt a public assembly, and San Mateo County Community College District policy:

"The following actions are prohibited and may lead to appropriate disciplinary action:

"1. ... or violating the rights of other students.
...
"8. ... or prevention of authorized guests from carrying out the purpose for which they are on campus."

2. The core principle of the Sixth Circuit opinion, Bible Believers vs. Wayne County is that officials have legal responsibility to take all reasonable steps to prevent protesters from illegally shutting down speech. There are many ways for protesters to effectuate the shutdown: they can pelt the speakers with plastic bottles (as in the Bible Belters' case), they can threaten more serious violence, they can have many people shout very loudly (as in the Canada College case). All of those have the same outcome -- the speaker is unable to communicate with his audience. The specific methods the protesters use are immaterial, since all have the same outcome of interfering with the First Amendment Rights of the speaker and the audience. If officials don't take objectively reasonable steps to try to stop it, they can be held legally liable.

* * *

San Mateo County Community College District Policies, AP 7.69.1 Standards of Student Conduct:
Web Link

Videos:
Web Link
Web Link
Web Link

Bible Believers et al. v. Wayne Count, et al.:
Web Link


2 people like this
Posted by Western Hillsider
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on May 8, 2017 at 12:36 pm

Western Hillsider is a registered user.

Sorry, John, just don't have time to do an opposing brief, though it would be fun. Yours is very good. On the other hand, over the years we've learned that any effective form of political "protest" by definition has some elements of illegality...depending, of course, on who's writing or interpreting the laws. Usually the currently dominant power gets to set the rules and declare what's off limits. And that's exactly what these folks are protesting. Like it or not, and prosecute it or not, they will keep it up until they think the threat to their lives has abated.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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