Arlene Violet: “Brown University over-reacts to Young”
Rhode Island political junkies will recall that Chris Young was literally dragged away by police from a microphone at the Brown University health care forum starring Congressman Patrick Kennedy ten days ago and then criminally charged.
Ahlene has an excellent analysis of the incident and its First Amendment implications in Thursday’s Valley Breeze. Excerpt:
… In a free society, somebody who voices an unpopular view in a strident voice at a public forum where audience participation is encouraged shouldn’t be dragged into court. No warning was given to this speaker of such a dire consequence. He was merely told that he had 15 seconds, an admonition most people don’t take literally as opposed to shorten your remarks. Ironically, an audience member right before him went up to the microphone twice with rather longwinded rhetoric with impunity. Moderators handle this eventuality often by gently coaxing the participant to ask the question succinctly. Warnings as to the “rules” governing the discourse are announced before the open session of questioning. Neither approach was unequivocally used here.
Brown University needs to make amends. It should drop the charges. As a bastion to the First Amendment it puts itself in the untenable position of pushing a prosecution which is the antithesis of the First Amendment freedom of speech and freedom of religion. …