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Sunday, October 12, 2003
UPDATE: Despite the vote, memebrs seem resolved not to take this action, electing rather, to focus on the fact that BCR searched people's backpacks to remove opposing literature, even that which was not intended to be distributed.
BACLU vs. BCR
A cadre of action-craving Berkeley ACLU members will bring charges against the Berkeley College Republicans, the club voted Tuesday. The aim is to revoke a portion of BCR's ASUC funding for allegedly oppressing freedom of speech of dissenters at a Ward Connerly event they hosted (the lawsuit is before ASUC Judicial committee).
On September 23 BCR brought the regent and author of Proposition 54 to speak on the matter, and forbade those in attendance from bringing in signs of any nature. Buttons, T-shirts, etc. were allowed, but on at least one occasion, opposing literature was confiscated out of a backpack. BACLU also voted to seek to disallow clubs from such confiscations through the OSL, but this is not the priority.
The co-presidents of BACLU read disapprovingly on a flier that signs would not be permitted, and after consulting with lawyers at the Northern California affiliate of the ACLU, decided to become their own test case. A dozen of the BACLU brought 11" x 17" anti-54 placards, demanding admission. After arguments and legal threats, they were denied. Following contentious debate, the vote to go through with the lawsuit passed by a small margin, although many members question its validity (they were not told that the lawsuit intends to revoke funding at the time of voting) and there is still chance for a revote.
Here is how one member expressed support:
Public funds and facilities may not be used to promote or facilitate events which do not grant equal access to members of the public (or on a more strict interpretation, members of the UCB student population). . . When granted permission to use campus facilities they are not granted a corresponding right to deny access to people simply based on the fact that they intend to practice forms of speech which are protected (non-disruptive). This is not altered in any way by that fact the they were distributing tickets.
...university policy may not restrict on campus speech in public arenas (including facilities opened to "dialogue" with faculty of the University [e.g. Regents]). It is a valid inference, and clear provision of legal precedence, that school funded groups holding events which are ostensibly to promote dialogue, are obliged not to limit the speech of others. . . . To deny admittance for the potential to cause a disruption is not a valid reason for a student group to limit the speech of individuals, even it they find it distasteful.
BCR members are shocked and thrilled, and with good reason. It appears unlikely the ACLU will win this case, and it may provide fodder for those types who wuv the fact there are conservatives in Berkeley.
For at least the time being, I have excised my commentary on the matter for fear of editorializing too soon. I retract nothing though.Email This Post!
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