Media – Nov 14 – On Student rally for free speech
The Daily Aztec – City
Students fight for rights
By Michael Tracy, Senior Staff Writer
Many different progressive student groups on campus rallied for free speech on Thursday against what they see as harassment from University Police and administration alike.
Speakers representing Chicano students, African students, feminists, socialists and students against war all spoke to the diverse crowd. They also marched from the Free Speech Steps to the Administration building and finally to the University Police station chanting slogans such as, “Whose campus? Our campus!”
The recent controversy over free speech at San Diego State stems from an Oct. 12 Dia de la Raza celebration put on by the Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan. University Police, who said they arrived because of a noise complaint, turned off the public address system for 10 minutes, and one officer put her hand over the microphone interrupting speaker Jahsun Kine.
Although the event was permitted to use amplified sound, assistant director of the Aztec Center, Tracy Teel, said it exceeded the decibel limit.
MEChA chair Edmundo Garcia however, said it was obvious the police were not solely concerned with the sound because they stopped the event without trying to turn down the PA system.
“We know the reason they were there was because we were speaking on some truth that nobody on this campus wants to hear – about how colonialism is still relevant today,” Garcia said. “It wasn’t about the noise being too loud because we could have turned that down, no problem.”
MEChA has demanded a public apology, that the officers who arrived at the event be disciplined, and the entire University Police force be educated on First Amendment rights. University Police Chief John Carpenter met with Garcia, Kine and Associated Students President Chris Manigault and said that while things could have been handled differently, the police did not need to apologize.
Carpenter could not be reached for further comment at the time of print.
The rift between student activists and the university widened when, two days after the MEChA event, campus police arrived at a protest organized by the Campus Anti-War Network near the Love Library. Police repeatedly told the protesters to disperse but eventually left after taking down personal information of some students present.
Carpenter is due to retire at the end of the year and one candidate to replace him, John Browning, said the mishandling of the MEChA event could be caused by the inexperience of officers on the scene.
“I talked (at a public interview) about the relative inexperience of law officers, and an officer with 25 years experience probably wouldn’t have done what an officer with one year had,” Browning said.
Kine said if the police force refuses to discipline and re-educate their rookie officers who make mistakes, then the police must be condoning their actions.
“If they know the officers are inexperienced, then why wouldn’t they discipline them?” Kine said. “To me it’s because inherent in their policy is the repression of people speaking out against the system because when we speak the truth, we indict them.”
Another issue angering the students was the legality of having free speech zones on campus as opposed to being able to hold demonstrations wherever student groups see fit.
Universities created these zones in the 1980s in an attempt to allow for free speech without disrupting classes. Activists, however, have long held that these zones are a way of controlling and discouraging the free speech of the student body.
“I believe that a university, where supposedly there are the brightest minds involved in free thought, there should not be free speech zones,” Garcia said. “If you are disrupting class then I can understand that, but if you are protesting on Centennial Walk or peacefully assembling by Love Library, then we have a right to do that.”
This is the first time this year so many different progressive organizations have held a joint demonstration. Kine said it was important to put backgrounds aside and come together to defend students’ rights to free speech.
“It’s not just African people on an island, it’s not just Mexican people on an island, or it’s not just Socialists on an island,” Kine said. “We’ve got to let (University Police and the administration) know who we are and that we are united.”