Google – August 7, 2017

Mountain View, CA

James Damore, a former senior software engineer at Google, was fired on August 7 for violating the company’s code of conduct by circulating a memo in which he criticized Google’s hiring and training practices that are intended to increase diversity within the company. He argued in the memo that there are biological reasons for the gender disparity in the tech industry, and he also claimed that the company reinforces ideas and beliefs held by a large number of its workers. After being fired, Damore filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board and is currently pursuing legal action against Google.

Key Figures

James Damore started working at Google in December 2013. According to a profile in The Guardian, he excelled in his work at the company and was promoted to senior engineer in early 2017. He wrote the memo in June and sent it in early July to the organizers of Google’s diversity meetings. He did not receive a response, so he began circulating the memo to internal forums and mailing lists within Google. On August 5, Vice reported that the memo had gone “internally viral,” and later that day Gizmodo published the memo in its entirety.

Danielle Brown is Google’s Vice President of Diversity, Integrity & Governance. She previously worked at Intel before being hired by Google in late June 2017. On August 5, she issued a response to Damore’s memo, stating that Google did not endorse his views.

Sundar Pichai has been CEO of Google since August 2015. On August 8, he sent a memo to Google employees stating that he supported the rights of employees to express their opinions, but that this memo expressed harmful stereotypes.

Further Details

In January 2017, the US Department of Labor filed a lawsuit against Google after the company allegedly failed to hand over its data concerning equal pay for its employees. On April 7, The Atlantic reported the department had found that Google’s labor practices involved “systemic compensation disparities against women pretty much across the entire workforce.” The Guardian reported that Google is 69% male and that in the tech industry overall, only 20% of jobs are held by women.

In his memo, Damore wrote that the “overwhelming majority of the social sciences, media, and Google lean left,” and that Google was “shaming into silence” dissenting views on diversity that created “an ideological echo chamber.” He then discussed possible non-bias-related causes of the gender gap in the tech industry. He wrote that “[w]omen generally have stronger interest in people rather than things,” “women generally [have] a harder time negotiating salary, asking for raises, speaking up, and leading,” and “neuroticism (higher anxiety, lower stress tolerance) … may contribute to the higher levels of anxiety women report” and “to the lower number of women in high-stress jobs.” Damore then laid out potential solutions for increasing the representation of women in tech, including making software engineering more people-oriented, making tech and leadership less stressful, and allowing men to be more feminine. He criticized Google’s “discriminatory practices” like a “high priority queue and special treatment for ‘diversity’ candidates,” “[p]rograms, mentoring, and classes only for people with a certain gender or race,” and “[h]iring practices which can effectively lower the bar for “diversity” candidates.” The memo concludes with Damore giving Google advice to “demoralize diversity,” “stop alienating conservatives,” confront its own biases, be “open about the science of human nature,” and stop the restriction of programs and classes to certain genders or races.

In Danielle Brown’s response to the memo, she wrote that she “found that [the memo] advanced incorrect assumptions about gender,” that Google did not endorse the views Damore espoused, and that Google employees “must feel safe sharing their opinions.” “Diversity and inclusion are a fundamental part of our values and the culture we continue to cultivate. We are unequivocal in our belief that diversity and inclusion are critical to our success as a company, and we’ll continue to stand for that and be committed to it for the long haul,” Brown wrote.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai sent a response to Google employees on August 7 after news broke of Damore’s memo. Pichai wrote that he supported the rights of Google employees to express their views, but that “portions of the [Damore] memo violate our Code of Conduct and cross the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace.” He continued, “To suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK. It is contrary to our basic values and our Code of Conduct, which expects ‘each Googler to do their utmost to create a workplace culture that is free of harassment, intimidation, bias and unlawful discrimination.’” He stressed that some Google employees were hurt by the memo, and he acknowledged that other employees were questioning whether or not they could express their views in the workplace after Damore’s firing. He also acknowledged that many of Damore’s concerns had merit. “[Many] points raised in the memo — such as the portions criticizing Google’s trainings, questioning the role of ideology in the workplace, and debating whether programs for women and underserved groups are sufficiently open to all — are important topics,” he wrote.

After the backlash against his original memo began, Damore added a paragraph at the beginning with the heading, “Reply to public response and misrepresentation.” In that paragraph, Damore wrote that he values diversity and inclusion, that he is not denying sexism exists, and that he is not endorsing stereotyping. “Psychological safety is built on mutual respect and acceptance, but unfortunately our culture of shaming and misrepresentation is disrespectful and unaccepting of anyone outside its echo chamber,” he wrote.

He added that he had received personal messages from fellow Google employees who expressed gratitude to him for raising the issues he discussed, and who “would never have the courage to say or defend [his views] because of our shaming culture and the possibility of being fired.” Wired reported that leaked internal messages showed some Google employees supported Damore’s ideas. Motherboard reported that a Google employee, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that some employees disagreed with what Damore was saying, but believed he should have a voice, and that a few expressed that they agreed with Damore’s views and thought he was brave. Another employee said, “The fact that colleagues are calling for him to be fired—on very public forums—proves his point that there is an ideological silo and that dissenting opinions want to be silenced,” reported Motherboard.

On August 11, Damore wrote an op-ed titled “Why I Was Fired by Google” in The Wall Street Journal. He said he had engaged in discussions with some of his peers after he circulated the original memo internally in early July, but that he was mostly ignored. Once the memo went viral, Google’s human resources department and Damore’s superiors received emails from individuals who demanded “censorship, retaliation, and atonement.” He accused upper management of shaming and misrepresenting his views, but acknowledged that the management couldn’t do otherwise because “The mob would have set upon anyone who openly agreed with me or even tolerated my views.” He concluded by writing that Google was walking “blindly into the future” by ignoring issues raised by its diversity policies.

After his firing, Damore did two interviews with Stefan Molyneux, a right-wing YouTube personality, and Jordan B. Peterson, a University of Toronto psychology professor known for his controversial statements regarding gender and who also has a large YouTube following. Damore told Molyneux that Google was hypocritical for firing him and that conservatives in the company feel the need to “stay in the closet.” He told Peterson that he had declined to speak to mainstream news outlets because he believed they would “twist whatever I say towards their agenda.” The Guardian reported that at Peterson’s behest, Damore began doing more interviews with other right-wing YouTube figures, including Ben Shapiro and Milo Yiannopoulos.

Outcome

Damore files complaint with NLRB over firing

On August 8, Damore filed an unfair labor practice complaint with the National Labor Relations Board. Wired reported that Damore hired Harmeet Dhillon, a prominent San Francisco Republican, as his attorney to explore legal action against Google. This action could potentially involve other ex-Google employees, the article reports.

Damore speaks out

In an interview with The Guardian, Damore said that he was frustrated that he had become associated with the alt-right because of the memo. “Journalists and commentators were incentivised to distort facts to generate outrage,” he said in the interview.

External References

The Department of Labor accuses Google of gender pay discrimination, The Atlantic

Google on anti-diversity manifesto: Employees ‘must feel safe sharing their opinions,’ Motherboard

Google’s new diversity chief tasked with moving the needle, USA Today

Exclusive: Here’s the full 10-page anti-diversity screed circulating internally at Google, Gizmodo

Internal reactions to Google employee’s manifesto show anti-diversity views have support, Motherboard

Internal messages how some Googlers supported fired engineer’s manifesto, Wired

Segregated valley: the ugly truth about Google and diversity in tech, The Guardian

Why I was fired by Google, The Wall Street Journal

‘I’m not a sexist: Fired Google engineer stands behind controversial memo, The Washington Post

The engineer Google fired over diversity memo has filed a complaint with federal labor officials, Business Insider

The Google employee who wrote the controversial Google manifesto was fired after CEO Sindar Pichai called it ‘not OK,” Business Insider

‘I see things differently’: James Damore on his autism and the Google memo, The Guardian

James Damore case could spawn more legal headaches for Google, Wired

Prepared by Graham Piro ‘18

December 1, 2017

Religious monument at Arkansas State Capitol destroyed – June 2017

Little Rock, AR

Michael T. Reed drove his car through a large stone monument of the Ten Commandments located in front of the Arkansas State Capitol at 4:47 am on Wednesday, June 28th. He was arrested outside the building and charged with criminal trespass, first-degree criminal mischief, and defacing objects of public interest.

Key Players
Michael T. Reed is a 32-year-old man who was arrested for driving his car through the monument. He was involved a previous incident involving a monument outside the Oklahoma State Capitol in 2014.

Jason Rapert is a Republican Arkansas state senator who originally led the movement to have the monument displayed outside the state capitol. The Washington Post reported that he said a replacement monument had been ordered shortly after Reed destroyed it.

Further Details

On October 24, 2014, Reed was arrested in Tulsa, Oklahoma, for ramming his truck into a similar monument at the Oklahoma State Capitol. ABC8 Tulsa reported that he was “charged with destruction of state property / improvements, indecent exposure, making threatening statements, reckless driving, and operating a vehicle while license revoked.” He was also charged with four counts of felony assault and battery with a dangerous weapon for his actions during his detention by police. Reuters reported that after the incident, Reed ran into a nearby federal building where he made threats against President Obama before he was arrested. Tulsa World reported that after that incident, Reed was sent to Norman’s Griffin Memorial Hospital as part of an agreement with Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater. There, he received therapy, and was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder. On June 30, 2015, the Oklahoma State Supreme Court ordered that the Ten Commandments monument on display in Tulsa be removed.

Little Rock Patch reported that Reed was streaming the Little Rock incident on Facebook live as he drove his car into the monument at a speed of more than 20 mph. He reportedly shouted, “Oh my goodness. Freedom!” on the broadcast.

Trent Garner, a Republican Arkansas state senator, tweeted after the incident, “We will rebuild. In fact, we should build the monument bigger and higher to show that we will not be intimidated.”

The Washington Post reported that a 2015 law was passed in Arkansas requiring the state government to allow the display of the monument outside the capitol. The article also stated that groups criticized the monument as a violation of the separation of church and state.

Outcome

Reed taken into custody, replacement ordered for destroyed monument

The Washington Post reported that State Senator Rapert said a replacement monument was ordered for the Arkansas State Capitol after Reed drove his car into the original one and destroyed it.

External References

Letter from many who destroyed Ten Commandments monument gives insight into his illness, Tulsa World

Man smashes Arkansas Capitol’s new Ten Commandments monument, Reuters

Driver Arrested After Running Over Ten Commandments Monument, ABC8 Tulsa

Michael Tate Reed: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know, Heavy

Arkansas 10 Commandments Monument Destroyed On Facebook Live: ‘FREEDOM!’”

Oklahoma’s Ten Commandments statue must be removed, state supreme court says, The Washington Post

Why one man keeps ramming his car into Ten Commandments statues on government property, The Washington Post

Arkansas’ Ten Commandments Monument Lasted Less Than 24 Hours, NPR

Prepared by Graham Piro ‘18

October 24, 2017

Congressional candidate Greg Gianforte assaults a reporter – May 2017

Missoula, MT

Greg Gianforte, a Republican candidate for a special election to fill the at-large U.S. House of Representatives seat for Montana, assaulted a reporter for The Guardian named Ben Jacobs on Wednesday, May 24, 2017. The assault occurred two days before the election results were finalized. Gianforte won the seat and apologized to Jacobs in his acceptance speech. Gianforte pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault and was sentenced to 20 hours of anger management sessions and community service, along with a $385 fine.

Key Players

Greg Gianforte is the current representative for Montana’s at-large congressional district. He amassed wealth working as a tech entrepreneur prior to running for public office. On the evening before the voting took place, Ben Jacobs, a reporter for The Guardian, was questioning Gianforte on the Republican healthcare plan when the candidate attacked him. According to Alicia Acuna, a Fox News reporter who witnessed the incident, “Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him.” In an audio recording of the incident, Gianforte yells, “I’m sick and tired of you guys,” and “Get the hell out of here,” after assaulting Jacobs. Gianforte won the special election with 49.9% of the vote, CNN reports. At his victory rally, he apologized to Jacobs, saying, “I should not have responded the way I did, for that I’m sorry. I should not have treated that reporter that way, and for that I’m sorry, Mr. Ben Jacobs.” The crowd responded, “You’re forgiven,” CNN reports. He pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault.

Ben Jacobs is a reporter for The Guardian. Immediately after the incident, Jacobs tweeted, “Greg Gianforte just body slammed me and broke my glasses.”

Brian Gootkin is the Gallatin County sheriff in charge of the investigation into the incident. He said in a statement, “Following multiple interviews and an investigation by the Gallatin County sheriff’s office it was determined there was probable cause to issue a citation to Greg Gianforte for misdemeanor assault … The nature of the injuries did not meet the statutory elements of felony assault.”

Further Details

The special election was being held to replace Ryan Zinke, who had been appointed Secretary of the Interior by President Trump. CNN reports that early voting played a large role in Gianforte’s victory in the election, so that many votes had already been cast before the incident.

The New York Times reported that Jacobs went to the hospital for x-rays. The article also reported that Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said that Gianforte should apologize and that the incident “should not have happened.” But Ryan also said that he would not block Gianforte from taking office.

Three newspapers in Montana, The Billings Gazette, The Missoulian, and The Independent Record all rescinded their endorsements of Gianforte after the incident.

Shane Scanlon, who was a press contact for Gianforte at the time and witnessed the incident, released a statement on behalf of Gianforte immediately afterwards, saying that Jacobs had “entered the [campaign] office without permission, aggressively shoved a recorder in Greg’s face, and began asking badgering questions … Jacobs grabbed Greg’s wrist, and spun away from Greg, pushing them both to the ground,” as reported by Fox News. The campaign blamed the incident on Jacobs’ “aggressive behavior.”

Outcome

Gianforte Wins Election, Pleads Guilty to Misdemeanor Assault

Greg Gianforte pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault after he “body-slammed” reporter Ben Jacobs. He was sentenced to community service, 20 hours of anger management sessions, and had to pay a $385 fine. Gianforte won the special election that was held a day after the incident, and he took office soon thereafter.

External References

“Greg Gianforte: Fox News team witnesses GOP House candidate ‘body slam’ reporter,” Fox News

“Republican Greg Gianforte wins Montana special election, CNN projects,” CNN

Ben Jacobs on Twitter

“Republican candidate charged with assault after ‘body-slamming’ Guardian reporter,” The Guardian

“Who is Greg Gianforte?” CNNPolitics

“GOP candidate charged after allegedly ‘body slamming’ reporter,” CNN

“Greg Gianforte sentenced to community service for assaulting Guardian reporter,” The Guardian

“Montana Republican Greg Gianforte, Charged With Assault, Awaits Fate in Vote,” The New York Times

Gianforte Campaign Statement

Prepared by Graham Piro ‘18

October 20, 2017

Republican legislators shot at baseball practice; New York Times editorial corrected – June 2017

Alexandria, VA

On June 14, 2017, James Hodgkinson opened fire at a congressional baseball practice in Alexandria, VA. Five people were shot, including US Representative Steve Scalise (R-LA.), the House Majority Whip. Hodgkinson was shot and killed after exchanging fire with US Capitol Police. The Congressional Baseball Game took place as planned two days afterwards.

Key Players

Steve Scalise is a Republican representative from Louisiana and the third-ranking member of the GOP leadership in that body. He was the most critically wounded in the assault. After being shot in the left hip and rushed to a hospital, Scalise underwent surgery and was in critical condition. The Washington Post reported that the doctors described Scalise as being at “imminent risk of death” when he was first brought to the hospital. Following several surgeries, Scalise was discharged on July 26, and began rehabilitation. On September 28, he returned to the House chamber to a standing ovation from fellow lawmakers, and remarked that he was “a living example that miracles really do happen.”

James Hodgkinson was the apparent perpetrator of the shooting, and he was killed during the firefight that broke out after he fired at the Republican lawmakers on the field. Originally from Illinois, Hodgkinson was a supporter of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) campaign for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination. Hodgkinson’s posts on Facebook included content such as “Trump is a Traitor. Trump Has Destroyed Our Democracy. It’s Time to Destroy Trump & Co.” and “Republicans are the Taliban of the USA.” Sanders acknowledged that Hodgkinson had volunteered for his presidential campaign, and he denounced the shooting as “despicable.”  After an investigation, the FBI determined that Hodgkinson had acted alone, reported The New York Post.

Further Details

The shooting began shortly after 7 a.m. on June 14, as the practice was concluding. Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) said that he encountered Hodgkinson moments before the shooting, as Duncan was leaving. Hodgkinson asked him if the people practicing on the field were Democrats or Republicans. Duncan replied that they were Republicans, then got in his car and left. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) said one gunshot sounded, followed by a burst of gunfire. Scalise was near second base and dropped to the ground after being hit. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN), who had been standing on the third base line, said he heard gunfire behind him, and turned around to see Hodgkinson pushing through the chain-link fence while firing toward second base and the outfield. The legislators ran for cover, and US Capitol Police, who had been standing guard, returned the fire and killed Hodgkinson; one officer was shot in the ankle. A staff member and a lobbyist who were helping with the practice were shot and hospitalized, and both recovered. Rep. Roger Williams (R-TX) and another US Capitol Police officer suffered minor injuries. Officials found a list with the names of several Republican lawmakers in Hodgkinson’s pocket.

It was later revealed by The Washington Post that Hodgkinson had been “casing” the field for months prior to the shooting. He was spotted watching the Republicans play baseball on the day before the shooting occurred. The article also reported that Hodgkinson fired 62 rounds from his rifle, and that the officers fired at least 40 shots back at him, hitting him three times.

The New York Times ran an editorial in the wake of the shooting titled “America’s Lethal Politics.” It stated that the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) in 2011 had been the result of incitement by former Alaska Republican Governor Sarah Palin’s political action committee. It specifically blamed a map the committee circulated that depicted Rep. Giffords and 19 other Democratic incumbents under cross hairs, as if they were targeted for attack.  After the editorial’s publication, the Times was criticized for misrepresenting the map. Two days later, the Times ran a correction in which it stated that no link between the map and Giffords’ shooting in fact existed. Two paragraphs in the middle of the editorial were edited.

The original paragraphs read:

In 2011, when Jared Lee Loughner opened fire in a supermarket parking lot, grievously wounding Representative Gabby Giffords and killing six people, including a 9-year-old girl, the link to political incitement was clear. Before the shooting, Sarah Palin’s political action committee circulated a map of targeted electoral districts that put Ms. Giffords and 19 other Democrats under stylized cross hairs.

Conservatives and right-wing media were quick on Wednesday to demand forceful condemnation of hate speech and crimes by anti-Trump liberals. They’re right. Though there’s no sign of incitement as direct as in the Giffords attack, liberals should of course hold themselves to the same standard of decency that they ask of the right.

The corrected paragraphs read:

In 2011, Jared Lee Loughner opened fire in a supermarket parking lot, grievously wounding Representative Gabby Giffords and killing six people, including a 9-year-old girl. At the time, we and others were sharply critical of the heated political rhetoric on the right. Before the shooting, Sarah Palin’s political action committee circulated a map that showed the targeted electoral districts of Ms. Giffords and 19 other Democrats under stylized cross hairs. But in that case no connection to the shooting was ever established.

Conservatives and right-wing media were quick on Wednesday to demand forceful condemnation of hate speech and crimes by anti-Trump liberals. They’re right. Liberals should of course be held to the same standard of decency that they ask of the right.

The following statement appeared at the bottom of the editorial:

Correction: June 16, 2017

An editorial on Thursday about the shooting of Representative Steve Scalise incorrectly stated that a link existed between political rhetoric and the 2011 shooting of Representative Gabby Giffords. In fact, no such link was established. The editorial also incorrectly described a map distributed by a political action committee before that shooting. It depicted electoral districts, not individual Democratic lawmakers, beneath stylized cross hairs.

Sarah Palin filed a federal lawsuit against the Times, claiming the newspaper had “falsely stated as a matter of fact” that Palin had incited the shooting in which Giffords was injured. The case was dismissed by a federal judge, who stated that Palin “failed to show that a mistake in an editorial was made maliciously.”

Outcome

Scalise recovered from injuries and returned to Congress

Steve Scalise made a recovery from his injuries and returned to Congress on September 28.

The Congressional Baseball Game occurred as planned

The Congressional Baseball Game proceeded on Friday, June 16, two days after the shooting. There were no further incidents.

The Times ran a correction of its editorial

The Times ran a correction of its editorial that withdrew the allegation that Sarah Palin’s political action committee had directly incited a shooting that led to the wounding of Gabrielle Giffords.

Palin’s lawsuit against the Times was dismissed

A federal judge dismissed Sarah Palin’s lawsuit against the Times over the editorial, because Palin failed to show that the mistake was malicious. “Negligence this may be; but defamation of a public figure it plainly is not,” wrote US District Court Judge Jed S. Rakoff.

External References:

What we know about the congressional baseball shooting, ABC News

Steve Scalise shot: Gunman James Hodgkinson killed in shootout

Rep. Steve Scalise Discharged From Hospital, Now Begins Rehabilitation, NBC News

Congressman Steve Scalise, Three Others Shot at Alexandria, Virginia, Baseball Field, NBC News

Suspect in congressional shooting was Bernie Sanders supporter, strongly anti-Trump, CNN

FBI: Congressional baseball practice shooter acted alone, The New York Post

Shame on the New York Times. Shame. National Review

America’s Lethal Politics, The New York Times

NYT issues correction to Giffords editorial, The Hill

Sarah Palin sues New York Times for editorial on Steve Scalise shooting, NOLA.com

Sarah Palin’s Defamation Suit Against The New York Times is Dismissed, The New York Times

‘Miracles really do happen’: Rep. Steve Scalise returns to Congress 15 weeks after he was shot, The Washington Post

Gunman Had List of GOP Lawmakers’ Names, NBC News

Prepared by Graham Piro ‘18

October 10, 2017

Radio host resigns after being ordered not to criticize Trump – June 2017

Palmyra, PA

Bruce Bond, a radio host in Palmyra, Pennsylvania, resigned after he was asked to stop criticizing President Trump by his station’s management. Bond received a memo from the general manager of the station informing him it was “not permissible” to be disrespectful of the president; the manager had previously asked Bond to cease his on-air political discussions.

Key Players

Bruce Bond was host of the “Bruce Bond Late Afternoon Show on Saturday Morning” on WTPA-FM, which is located in the central Pennsylvania town of Palmyra. He was hired by the station in June 2014, and had previously worked for WNNK, a Harrisburg-based station, in the 1980s and 1990s. Bond was a figure of controversy for his prank calls and inflammatory statements, including one about a fake news story involving a dog being left in a hot car. He was fired by WNNK in 2001, and was then hired by WRKZ, a station based in Columbus, Ohio. However, three years later his show was cancelled, and he moved to New Orleans, declaring that he was not interested in radio anymore. In 2008, Bond was indicted on 65 charges, which included identity theft, forging documents, and attempted grand larceny; he was also accused of involvement in a $4.3 million forged-check scheme. He pleaded guilty to second-degree larceny, identity theft, and possession of forgery devices and was sentenced to prison, where he served two years before being released on parole. The Washington Post reported that after resigning from WTPA, Bond said, “They just didn’t want me to talk about Trump in a disparaging, negative way, if at all … I couldn’t go further with it. …Everybody talks about this guy. How can I do a talk show when I can’t mention what people are talking about out there?” He also said that central Pennsylvania “can’t handle someone as liberal and brutally honest as I can be quite often.”

Tim Michaels is general manager of WTPA. He sent a memo to Bond, who later posted it to Facebook. It read, in part, “I have received backlash in the form of emails, phone calls and such. I have listeners threatening a boycotts [sic] of sponsors and social media campaigns against the station, I have spoken with several parties personally this week that are very angered and have discontinued listening to WTPA. and [sic] are encouraging their friends to do the same.” The New York Daily News reported that Michaels had sent a memo in December 2015 to all on-air personalities at the station, instructing them to avoid politics on the air and online. A second memo, circulated after the field narrowed to just Trump and Hillary Clinton, said not to mention either one on the air. The Washington Post reported that Michaels wrote in an email that Bond had “crossed the lines of what was acceptable.”

Further Details

In an interview with the Daily News, Bond said that he was “walking on eggshells” prior to his resignation. He also mentioned that Palmyra is “a conservative town,” and that Trump supporters had intimidated the station manager. “I stood up to Trump and I’m out of a job. A lot of people are lying down,” he said in the interview.

Outcome

Bruce Bond Resigns

Radio host Bruce Bond resigned from his talk show at WTPA after the general manager instructed him not to criticize Donald Trump on the air. The station manager had sent two previous memos asking the station’s on-air personalities to avoid discussing politics during their shows.

External References

Radio host scolded for criticizing President Trump resigns, CBS News

A timeline of Bruce Bond’s Harrisburg radio history, Penn Live

My apologies to the General Manager of WTPA…

A radio host was warned not to criticize President Trump. So he quit. The Washington Post

‘I stood up and I’m out of a job’ – radio host Bruce Bond on the perils of talking politics in the age of Trump, The New York Daily News

Bruce Bond has quit WTPA due to Trump comments ban, Penn Live

Former radio host Bond sentenced for fraud, Penn Live

Prepared by Graham Piro ‘18

September 24, 2017

Portland mayor contends First Amendment does not protect hate speech – June 2017

Portland, OR

The mayor of Portland, Oregon, sparked controversy when he urged the federal government to prevent two alt-right demonstrations from taking place at a federal plaza in Portland.

Key Figures

Ted Wheeler has served as the mayor of Portland, Oregon since January 1, 2017. He is a member of the Democratic party and previously served as Oregon’s state treasurer.

Further details

On May 29, 2017, Wheeler used Facebook to urge publicly that the federal government revoke permits for two upcoming demonstrations scheduled to take place in the Terry D. Schrunk Plaza in Portland. The first demonstration, called the “Trump Free Speech Rally,” organized by a Portland-based organization called Patriot Prayer, was scheduled to take place on June 4. According to its Facebook page, Patriot Prayer is dedicated to “fighting corruption and big government.” The second demonstration, called the “March Against Sharia,” was organized by ACT for America and scheduled to take place on June 10. ACT for America is a conservative organization that combats “what it describes as ‘the threat of radical Islam’ to the safety of Americans and to democracy,” according to the Anti-Defamation League. The permits were issued by the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), reports Oregon Live.

Joey Gibson, the leader of Patriot Prayer, told Oregon Live that his event would include 50 or 60 private security personnel, many of whom have “conceal carry” licenses. These licenses allow individuals to carry concealed weapons. Federal law prohibits guns from being carried inside federal property like the plaza in question, but according to Gibson, weapons could be carried outside, but near, the plaza.

Wheeler’s Facebook post said, in part, “I have confirmed that the City of Portland has NOT and will not issue any permits for the alt right events scheduled on June 4th or June 10th. The Federal government controls permitting for Shrunk [sic] Plaza, and it is my understanding that they have issued a permit for the event on June 4th,” according to The Washington Post. He also said, “I am calling on the federal government to IMMEDIATELY REVOKE the permit(s) they have issued for the June 4th event and to not issue a permit for June 10th. Our City is in mourning, our community’s anger is real, and the timing and subject of these events can only exacerbate an already difficult situation.”

The mourning mentioned by Wheeler is a reference to a double murder that took place on May 26 in Portland. Two men were stabbed to death after confronting another, who was “screaming anti-Muslim slurs” at two young women, the Post reports. Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche and Ricky John Best were killed on a light-rail train after intervening to stop the assailant from shouting what police described as “hate speech toward a variety of ethnicities and religions,” according to Oregon Live. A third man was also injured in the incident.

The alleged killer, Jeremy Joseph Christian, had attended the “March for Free Speech,” an event organized by Patriot Prayer in April 2017, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Organizers of that event asked Christian “to leave after he yelled racial epithets and ‘Die Muslims!’ and threatened Gibson,” Oregon Live reports. A photo of Christian shows him giving the Nazi salute at the event, according to the Post.

Gibson responded to Wheeler’s Facebook post by distancing himself from Christian’s alleged actions. “What I say, the things that I say, the things that I preach goes against everything that Jeremy Christian would’ve said,” he asserted on Facebook. Gibson urged federal officials to respect his group’s permit, so that Patriot Prayer would be able to maintain control over the rally. “If they pull our permits, we cannot kick out the white supremacists. We cannot kick out the Nazis. Do you get that?” he said, according to the Post. “If anyone has a sign, a racist sign or anything, they will be gone. If anyone screams anything racist, they will be gone. But if they pull our permit, we will not have that right.”

At a press conference on May 29, Wheeler told reporters that his “main concern is that [the organizers of the rallies] are coming to peddle a message of hatred and of bigotry,” according to CNN. “They have a First Amendment right to speak, but my pushback on that is that hate speech is not protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.” Wheeler’s claim drew criticism from free speech advocates, including the Oregon chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The ACLU of Oregon reacted to Wheeler’s remarks in a series of tweets, saying “The government cannot revoke or deny a permit based on the viewpoint of the demonstrators. Period. It may be tempting to shut down speech we disagree with, but once we allow the government to decide what we can say, see, or hear, or who we can gather with. History shows us that the most marginalized will be disproportionately censored and punished for unpopular speech. We are all free to reject and protest ideas we don’t agree with. That is a core, fundamental freedom of the United States. If we allow the government to shut down speech for some, we all will pay the price down the line.” In an article for the Post, Eugene Volokh, a professor of law at the University of California, Los Angeles, wrote that, “the government may not deny permits for speech because it views the speech as promoting ‘bigotry or hatred,’ whether toward Muslims, blacks, whites, police officers, capitalists or whomever else.”

Michael Cox, a spokesman for Wheeler, told Oregon Live that “it’s not up to the mayor to sanction or not sanction speech events.” Cox also said, “The mayor’s request to revoke the permit is in no way intended to censor political speech,” Oregon Live reports. “The request was made because the mayor’s top priority is the safety of everyone in our city. He believes that this rally is planned for the wrong time at the wrong place in the wake of a horrific double murder and in the midst of the Rose Festival.”

The GSA denied Wheeler’s request that the two permits be revoked. Wheeler responded to the federal government’s decision by saying, “I am a firm supporter of the First Amendment, no matter the views expressed. I believe we had a case to make about the threats to public safety posed by this rally at this place and at this time,” Oregon Live reports.

On June 4, the “Trump Free Speech Rally” drew hundreds of supporters and a larger number of counter-protesters and onlookers, according to Reuters. Anti-fascist activists wearing masks reportedly shouted “Nazis, go home” at the demonstrators in the square. Fourteen arrests were made, and police used Twitter to display the numerous weapons they had confiscated during the demonstration, including “a hunting knife, brass knuckles, clubs, roadside flares, a slingshot and several homemade shields,” Reuters reports.

The rally scheduled to take place on June 10 was cancelled by organizers. Scott Pressler, an employee of ACT for America, explained his organization’s decision to cancel the rally in a post on Facebook, saying “Due to Mayor Wheeler’s inflammatory comments and what we feel is an incitement of violence, he has shamefully endangered every scheduled participant,” Oregon Live reports. “Consequently, in order to ensure the safety of those who had planned on attending, we have taken the decision to cancel the Portland March Against Sharia,” he continued.

External References:

‘Hate speech is not protected by the First Amendment,’ Portland mayor says. He’s wrong, The Washington Post

Anti-Muslim march organizers cancel June 10 event in Portland, citing mayor’s comments, Oregon Live

Trump supporters confront counter-protests in Portland, Oregon, Reuters

‘Final act of bravery’: Men who were fatally stabbed trying to stop anti-Muslim rants identified, The Washington Post

Portland mayor urges federal government to revoke permit for ‘alt-right’ demonstration, on the theory that ‘hate speech is not protected,’ The Washington Post

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler under fire after asking feds to revoke permit for pro-Trump rally, Oregon Live

Prepared by Will Haskell ’18

September 19, 2017

WMATA disallows controversial advertisements – August 2017

Washington, DC

On August 9, 2017, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sued the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) after four advertisements were rejected as impermissible under the transit authority’s advertising guidelines. Three of the advertisements respectively promoted Milo Yiannopoulos’ book, vegan eating habits, and abortion medication. The fourth ad, sponsored by the ACLU, featured the text of the First Amendment in three languages. The suit seeks approval by WMATA for the advertisements as well as financial relief for Yiannopoulos.

Key Figures

Arthur Spitzer, the legal director of the ACLU’s Washington, DC, office, serves as lead counsel in this case. A graduate of Yale Law School, Spitzer said “This case highlights the consequences of the government’s attempt to suppress all controversial speech on public transit property,” according to a press release from the ACLU. “The First Amendment protects the speech of everyone from discriminatory government censorship, whether you agree with the message or not.” Additionally, Spitzer told The New York Times that, “It’s ironic that a government agency, which is bound by the First Amendment, wouldn’t put up the First Amendment.”

Milo Yiannopoulos is a controversial national figure and a leader within the alt-right movement. His speaking engagements have faced protests on college campuses, most notably at the University of California, Berkeley. Yiannopoulos’ book, titled “Dangerous,” was released on July 4, 2017. The memoir sparked controversy after publisher Simon & Schuster signed a $250,000 book deal with Yiannopoulos in December 2016, Newsweek reports. Two months later, the publisher backed out of the agreement after objectionable comments by Yiannopoulos regarding children and sexuality surfaced. Yiannopoulos self-published the book and sued Simon & Schuster for $10 million, according to Newsweek. Regarding his case against WMATA, Yiannopoulos said, “…It is not for the government to chase so-called ‘controversial’ content out of the public square.” He added, “By the way, my ads weren’t even controversial. They were literally just pictures of my face.”

Further details

In November 2015, WMATA revised its policies regarding which advertisements are permitted on subways, buses, and other Metro facilities. The new guidelines prohibit “advertisements intended to influence members of the public regarding an issue on which there are varying opinions…” Also prohibited are advertisements “intended to influence public policy…” These restrictions were adopted after anti-Muslim advertisements inspired outrage in 2015, according to the The Washington Post. In March 2017, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled on the rejection of these advertisements, finding the restriction on “issue-oriented advertising” to be constitutional.

Operating under these guidelines, WMATA rejected several advertisements in 2017. These included an advertisement from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) urging consumers to “Go Vegan,” and an advertisement for abortion medication from Carafem, a nonprofit health care network that specializes in providing women access to birth control and medical abortion. WMATA had previously accepted advertisements from Carafem, but rejected an advertisement for a “10-Week-After Pill” on the grounds that it was “issue-oriented” and “controversial,” according to the ACLU. Additionally, an advertisement from the ACLU displaying the text of the First Amendment in English, Spanish, and Arabic was rejected. Finally, WMATA removed an advertisement promoting Milo Yiannopoulos’ book after receiving complaints from riders. The advertisement displayed Yiannopoulos’ face alongside quotes from journalists, but it was rejected for being too controversial, the ACLU said.

Joining with the three other entities whose advertisements were affected, the ACLU filed suit against WMATA in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, alleging that the restrictions placed on advertising violated the First Amendment. The ACLU claims that WMATA’s ban on controversial ads is inconsistently applied, noting that while WMATA “rejected PETA’s ad for a vegan diet, it accepted an ad from a restaurant showing a tasty dish and labeled ‘PORKADISE FOUND.’ At the same time it tore down ads for Yiannopoulos’ book, it was running ads for a movie that showed four women ogling a male stripper.”

“In its zeal to avoid hosting offensive and hateful speech, the government has eliminated speech that makes us think, including the text of the First Amendment itself,” said senior staff attorney Lee Rowland in an ACLU press release. She continued, “The ACLU could not more strongly disagree with the values that Milo Yiannopoulos espouses, but we can’t allow the government to pick and choose which viewpoints are acceptable.”

Specifically, the lawsuit asks the Court to compel WMATA to accept the advertisements of the four plaintiffs. It also posits that four sections of WMATA’s advertising guidelines are “unconstitutional because they violate free speech rights, are arbitrarily enforced, and are unconstitutionally vague.” Finally, ACLU filed a motion seeking monetary relief on behalf of Yiannopoulos to replace revenue from book sales that he claims he lost from the prohibition of the advertisements.

WMATA, however, defends its advertising guidelines as “reasonable and view-point neutral,” according to a statement provided to the Times. Since becoming a “nonpublic forum” in 2015, WMATA has enforced certain commercial advertising guidelines that prohibit political content.

However, some of the affected organizations reject the notion that their ads were political in nature. “We’re not trying to sway people,” Carafem’s chief operating officer told the Times. “We were trying to let people who wanted our services know where they can get it.”

“These types of First Amendment cases make strange bedfellows,” the manager of legislative affairs for PETA told the Times. “The government cannot pick and choose who gets to speak based on their viewpoint, no matter how controversial.”

Similarly, Yiannopoulos noted the unusual alliance formed by the four plaintiffs. “I think PETA is deranged and I have been dismayed, to put it lightly, by positions the ACLU has taken in the past,” he told the Times regarding the case against WMATA. “But on this issue we are all united…,” he continued

The ACLU received sharp criticism for including Yiannopoulos as a plaintiff in the case. Chase Strangio, a staff attorney at the ACLU, tweeted that he did not support the organization’s decision to represent Yiannopoulos, writing, “Milo’s actions may not meet the legal definition of incitement but he acts in a world in which people already feel authorized to demean, attack and dispose of the bodies and lives of so many people… He is vile. And I am sorry for any platform and validation that he receives.” The ACLU permits employees to speak freely about their personal opinions, so long as they make clear that they are not speaking on behalf of the organization, reports The Washington Post.

Many former supporters of the ACLU used Twitter to criticize the organization’s representation of Yiannopoulos, according to the Post. One Democratic congressional candidate in Massachusetts tweeted, “I understand the ACLU has to protect the worst speech, but the day they work for Milo is the day I decide to never give them another dime.” She later deleted the tweet, the Post noted.

Spitzer responded to the criticism by saying, “We did expect some unhappiness,” according to the Post. “We always get some when we defend unpopular people. When we recently supported the Redskins’ right to keep their registered trademarks, we got similar reactions, internally and externally. When I went to court on behalf of the KKK in 1990 … we got plenty.” Spitzer’s reference to the Washington Redskins, a team in the National Football League, involves the legal battle over whether its copyright registrations should be nullified on the grounds that its name is allegedly offensive to Native Americans. In March 2015, the ACLU filed an amicus brief defending the Redskins’ right to use the name under the First Amendment.

The Post’s editorial board published an editorial partially supporting the ACLU, but drawing a distinction between advertisements that promote ideas and those that promote products. The Post contends that while WMATA may prohibit advertisements that promote ideas, “it should approve advertisements for all products and services that meet WMATA’s other guidelines, no matter how controversial the views behind those products may be.” The editorial is sympathetic to the cases of Yiannopoulos and Carafem, alleging that WMATA’s actions may constitute viewpoint discrimination.

External References:

ACLU sues DC Metro over rejection of First Amendment Ad, ACLU

Citing Free Speech, ACLU Sues Washington Metro Over Rejected Ads, The New York Times

Guidelines Governing Commercial Advertising, WMATA

ACLU v. WMATA – Complaint, ACLU

ACLU v. WMATA – Motion for Preliminary Injunction, ACLU

Advertising and Retail Policy Review, WMATA

In defending Milo Yiannopoulos, ACLU gets pushback from some of its own, The Washington Post

Milo Yiannopoulos’s book ‘Dangerous’ has sold half as many copies as he claims, Newsweek

Prepared by Will Haskell ’18

September 18, 2017

Lincoln Memorial – White Nationalist Rally – June 2017

Washington, D.C.

Richard Spencer held a rally at the Lincoln Memorial on Sunday, June 25, 2017. He dubbed the event the “Rally for Free Speech,” and despite fears of violence, no arrests were made. Between 100 and 300 people attended. Washingtonian reported that Spencer gave a speech in which he included a call to action: “Let’s meet a year from now. Let’s have 10,000 people. Let’s five years from now have 100,000 people or a half a million people. Let’s march for us.”

Key Players

Richard Spencer, a white nationalist associated with the alt-right movement, is president of the National Policy Institute, located in Alexandria, Virginia. He gained notoriety when, at a conference he organized following the 2016 US presidential election, he shouted “Hail Trump!” — to which the crowd responded with a Nazi-like salute. WUSA reported that Spencer told reporters that although he did not choose the Lincoln Memorial for its symbolic value, he did believe the setting was appropriate. “The idea that he was some great emancipator is a bit of a myth – so yes, I do think he would support us,” he said to reporters.

Nathan Damigo, leader of Identity Evropa, a white supremacist group in the United States, was a headliner at the rally. He previously served in the Marine Corps, but received an other-than-honorable discharge after robbing a cab driver of $43. He was sentenced to six years in prison, and was released in 2014. Two years later, he founded Identity Evropa. The Daily Beast reported that a video of Damigo punching a woman in the face at a UC Berkeley protest went viral, gaining him notoriety.

Further Details

The Washington Post reported that speakers discussed economic issues, white identity, and immigration.

A counter-rally was held higher up the steps on the Lincoln Memorial. There, the crowd sang and listened to a speech by the granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor. At times, the two rallies shouted phrases at each other.

A large number of police officers were present. There was no violence between the competing rallies.

Outcome

No Violence at “Rally for Free Speech” at Lincoln Memorial

Richard Spencer’s “Rally for Free Speech” took place at the Lincoln Memorial. Despite the presence of a competing rally, there was no violence.

External References:

Second Marine Veteran Identified As Charlottesville White Nationalist Leader, Task & Purpose

Anti-hate, Alt-Right free speech groups rally on steps of Lincoln Memorial, WUSA 9

You Shouldn’t Look Away When White Nationalists Rally at the Lincoln Memorial, Washingtonian

White nationalists find Lincoln Memorial, and opposing voices, The Washington Post

 

Prepared by Graham Piro ’18

September 18, 2017

Unite the Right March – August 12, 2017

Charlottesville, VA

On August 12, 2017, several hundred Ku Klux Klan members, white supremacists, and anti-Semites participated in “Unite the Right,” a march in Charlottesville, home of the University of Virginia (UVA), to protest a decision by local officials to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. Counter-protesters confronted the white nationalist demonstration. The heated encounter between the two opposing groups culminated in tragedy, when a white nationalist drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters. Heather D. Heyer, a paralegal living in Charlottesville, was killed, and nineteen others were injured, The New York Times reports.

Key Players

President Donald J. Trump responded to the violent protests in Charlottesville by condemning the “egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides,” reports the Times. Trump’s statement drew criticism from both Republicans and Democrats for failing specifically to condemn the white nationalist movement. White House Homeland Security Adviser Thomas P. Bossert told the Times that President Trump did not want to “dignify the names of these groups of people.” First daughter Ivanka Trump tweeted, “There should be no place in society for racism, white supremacy and neo-nazis.” Two days later, apparently after pressure from White House staff members, President Trump condemned the hate groups involved in the Charlottesville protests, saying “Racism is evil — and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazi’s, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans,” the Times reports. However, the next day Trump told reporters in New York, “You had a group on one side that was bad. You had a group on the other side that was also very violent. Nobody wants to say that. I’ll say it right now,” reports the Times. He also said, “What about the alt-left that came charging at the, as you say, the alt-right? Do they have any semblance of guilt? Let me ask you this: What about the fact that they came charging, that they came charging with clubs in their hands swinging clubs? Do they have any problem? I think they do. So, you know, as far as I’m concerned, that was a horrible, horrible day.”

Heather D. Heyer worked as a paralegal at the Miller Law Group in Charlottesville. According to the Times, Friends described her as a passionate advocate for the disenfranchised who was often moved to tears by the world’s injustices.” The City of Charlottesville issued a statement in response to her death, saying “This senseless act of violence rips a hole in our collective hearts. While it will never make up for the loss of a member of our community, we will pursue charges against the driver of the vehicle that caused her death and are confident justice will prevail.” A GoFundMe campaign to provide financial support to Heyer’s family raised over $200,000 in two days, according to the Times.

James Alex Fields Jr. is accused of driving his car into a group of counter-protesters, killing Heyer and injuring nineteen others. Fields, who lives in Maumee, Ohio, was charged with second-degree murder and denied bail. His mother told the Associated Press that she knew he was attending the rally, but believed that it “had something to do with Trump.” A former high school teacher of Fields told The Cincinnati Enquirer that Fields was “a very bright kid but very misguided and disillusioned.”

Governor Terry McAuliffe of Virginia declared a state of emergency in response to the events in Charlottesville. McAuliffe also defended the response of law enforcement from criticism by both the white nationalists and counter protesters. He pointed out that not a single shot was fired during the protest and said the car attack could not have been prevented by law enforcement, the Times reports.

Further Details

New York Times reporter Richard Fausset called the white national demonstration in Charlottesville “perhaps the most visible manifestation to date of the evolution of the American far-right, a coalition of old and new white supremacist groups connected by social media and emboldened by the election of Donald J. Trump.” Additionally, the Southern Poverty Law Center described the rally as “the largest hate-gathering of its kind in decades in the United States.”

In addition to Heather Heyer, two Virginia state troopers were killed in a helicopter crash on Saturday evening. The helicopter was being used to monitor the protests from above. The reason for the crash was not immediately clear, but was being investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board, according to the Times.


After the protests, Twitter users attempted to identify individuals who were photographed while participating in the Unite the Right rally. One successfully identified a man carrying a tiki torch as an individual who worked for a restaurant named Top Dog in Berkeley, CA. Top Dog promptly fired the man, reports the Daily Mail. Additionally, Twitter users were able to use photographs to identify a University of Nevada, Reno student who had traveled to Charlottesville for the protest. “I came to this march for the message that white European culture has a right to be here just like every other culture,” he told KTVN’s Channel 2 News after being identified on Twitter. “As a white nationalist, I care for all people. We all deserve a future for our children and for our culture. White nationalists aren’t all hateful; we just want to preserve what we have,” he continued. University of Nevada, Reno President Marc Johnson released a statement acknowledging that a student at the school had been involved in the Unite the Right protest. It read, in part, “Racism and white supremacist movements have a corrosive effect on our society. These movements do not represent our values as a university. We denounce any movement that targets individuals due to the color of their skin, their religious beliefs, political beliefs, sexual orientation, ability/disability, or whether they were born in our country,” KTVN reports. Although Johnson’s statement did not identify the student, a petition on Charge.org calling for the school to expel him garnered more than 13,000 signatures within 48 hours.

Trump’s statements regarding the events in Charlottesville prompted many prominent business executives to resign from the his business advisory councils. Inge Thulin, chairman and chief executive of 3M, announced his resignation from the Manufacturing Council, saying “the initiative is no longer an effective vehicle for 3M to advance its goals,” NBC News reports. Soon Denise Morrison, president and chief executive of Campbell Soup, resigned as well. Reacting to Trump’s comments at the news conference in New York, Morrison said, “Racism and murder are unequivocally reprehensible and are not morally equivalent to anything else that happened in Charlottesville.” Trump announced via Twitter that he was dissolving both the Manufacturing Council and the Strategy and Policy Forum.

On Wednesday, August 16, 2017, thousands of students and others participated in a peaceful vigil at the UVA. The organizers intentionally kept their plans off social media and instead spread information by word of mouth, CNN reports. Participants in the vigil carried candles, sang the national anthem, and followed the same route the white supremacists had charted on Saturday.  The same day, Heather Heyer’s mother spoke about her daughter’s death at a memorial service. “They tried to kill my child to shut her up. Well, guess what? You just magnified her,” she said, according to CNN.

On August 11, 2017, a day before the Unite the Right rally, a judge in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia, Charlottesville division, granted an injunction allowing the event to be held in Emancipation Park. City officials had attempted to relocate the Unite the Right rally to a different park, due to safety concerns. While the proposed new location was larger and could accommodate more people, it was not where the statue of Lee stood. Jason Kessler, the event’s organizer, sued the city and was represented by the Rutherford Institute as well as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The two groups argued that moving the march’s location would violate Kessler’s free speech rights. After the injunction was granted, ACLU’s Virginia Executive Director, Claire Guthrie, said in a statement, “We are grateful that the court recognized that the First Amendment applies equally to everyone regardless of their views,” NBC 29 reports. Her statement continued, “We hope that the city will focus . . . on managing the expected crowds using de-escalation tactics and flexibility…” Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer responded to the injunction, saying, “While the City is disappointed by tonight’s ruling, we will abide by the judge’s decision. The goal in moving the Unite the Right rally from Emancipation Park to a larger, more accommodating space like McIntire Park had nothing to do with the content of the demonstrators’ speech.”

In February, the Charlottesville Town Council voted to remove Lee’s statue, and also to rename “Lee Park,” where the statue is located, along with a nearby park named for Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. In May, “a circuit court judge in Charlottesville issued a six-month injunction to halt the removal of the statue after a collection of individuals and groups — including the Virginia chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans — filed a lawsuit against the city,” reports the Times. That same month, alt-right leader Richard Spencer led two marches through Charlottesville. At one, Spencer shouted, “we will never back down from the cowardly attacks on our people and our heritage. What brings us together is that we are white. We are a people. We will not be replaced,” CNN reports. Spencer also attended the Unite the Right protest and was photographed being detained by police. Spencer is a graduate of UVA. The protest in May that Spencer led caused Teresa A. Sullivan, president of UVA, to issue a statement in which she said that while the university does “respect the rights of free expression and assembly,” it also “reserve[s] the right to criticize those expressions and assemblies.” Her statement also asserted that the demonstration appeared to be a deliberately attempt to intimidate African-Americans.

In July 2017, approximately 50 supporters of the Ku Klux Klan had participated in a rally to save the Lee statue. They shouted “white power” for approximately half an hour, the Times reports. More than 1,000 counter-protesters confronted the KKK supporters, protesting “their presence by hurling insults, water bottles and apple cores,” according to the Times. Law enforcement officials deployed tear gas in an effort to force the counter-protesters to disperse. “City officials and church leaders had asked residents to stay away from the rally. Concerts and other events were planned to encourage residents to spend the day elsewhere,” the Times reports.

The events in Charlottesville prompted numerous editorials in national publications concerning hate speech and the First Amendment. Some argued that the ACLU ought to reconsider its decision to represent white supremacists, although the organization stood by its actions. “I want to be clear, the violence of this weekend was not caused by our defense of the First Amendment,” the ACLU’s executive director told the Times.

In September, UVA released a report finding that the university’s administration had not adequately prepared for the alt-right rally. The report, authored by the Deans Working Group, led by UVA Law School Dean Risa Goluboff, cited numerous shortcomings in the university’s preparation and response to the “Unite the Right” rally, reports the Post. The report urges UVA to “forge new policies and practices that will prevent it from again becoming a locus of intimidation and violence while recommitting to the principles of free speech at the core of its mission.” Suggested improvements include procuring better information prior to protests, changing certain regulations concerning large gatherings on campus, and improving an understanding of campus rules, reports the Post. In one example of inadequate preparation, UVA campus police failed to enforce a rule prohibiting flames on campus due to an incomplete knowledge and understanding of the regulation. Alt-right demonstrators carried torches on Friday night prior to the “Unite the Right” rally.

Outcome:

1 killed, 19 injured while protesting hate groups

Heather D. Heyer was killed while participating in a counter-protest when a car driven by a white nationalist from Ohio drove into a crowd. Nineteen other counter-protesters were injured, and the driver was charged with second-degree murder. He was denied bail on Monday by a judge in the Charlottesville General District Court, reports USA Today. Additionally, two state troopers were killed in a helicopter crash while monitoring the protests.

External References:

23 Arrested and Tear Gas Deployed After a K.K.K. Rally in Virginia, The New York Times

State of Emergency in Virginia as White Nationalists March, The New York Times

Our Sister’s Keeper #HeatherHeyer, GoFundMe

City of Charlottesville Statement on the Deaths of Heather D. Heyer, Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates, Charlottesville Tomorrow

The Statue at the Center of Charlottesville’s Storm, The New York Times

Trump calls KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists ‘repugnant’, CNN

Fire & Expel Peter Cvjetanovic, Change.org

No bail for Charlottesville car attack suspect James Fields, USA Today

A Guide to the Violence in Charlottesville, The New York Times

Update: Judge Issues Temporary Injunction to Halt Lee Statue Removal, NBC 29

Death of 2 State Troopers Adds Another Layer of Tragedy in Charlottesville, The New York Times

Trump Dissolves Business Advisory Councils as CEOs Quit, NBC News

Thousands gather for peaceful candlelight vigil at UVA, CNN

The A.C.L.U. Needs to Rethink Free Speech, The New York Times

Prepared by Will Haskell ‘18

September 17, 2017

US Attorney General reviews policies on media subpoenas – August 2017

Washington, DC

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Department of Justice would review its policy concerning “media subpoenas,” raising concerns about freedom of the press and legal protections for journalists in the era of President Trump.

Key Figures

Jeff Sessions is the 84th Attorney General of the United States. Appointed by President Donald Trump, Sessions previously served as a United States Senator from Alabama from 1997 to 2017.

Further details

In a news conference on August 4, 2017, in Washington, DC, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the US Department of Justice was “reviewing policies affecting media subpoenas,” in an effort to reduce leaks from within President Trump’s administration. Sessions’ comments sparked concerns that reporters may be compelled to reveal the identity of government sources who provide classified or other sensitive information. During the news conference, Sessions said, “We respect the important role that the press plays and will give them respect, but it is not unlimited. They cannot place lives at risk with impunity,” reports The Washington Post.

Additionally, Sessions announced that the Department of Justice had tripled the number of leak investigations since President Trump took office, reports Newsweek. Two days after Sessions’ press conference, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told Fox News, “We don’t prosecute journalists for doing their jobs.” He continued, “the attorney general has been very clear that we’re after the leakers, not the journalists.”

Sessions’ remarks seemed to waver from the Justice Department’s policy, established in 2015, that reporters may only be subpoenaed for information “after all reasonable alternative attempts have been made to obtain the information from alternative sources,” reports the Los Angeles Times. These existing guidelines specify that issuing subpoenas or seeking search warrants for news organizations should be considered “extraordinary measures, not standard investigatory practices.”

Responding to Sessions’ news conference, the director of the Freedom of Press Foundation said, “Journalists cannot do their job without sources willing to talk with them — sources that often put their livelihoods at risk in order to get information to the public. And the coming leak crackdown has the potential to upend accountability journalism in the Trump era,” reports Newsweek.

On August 9, the editorial board of the Chicago Tribune warned Sessions to “Back off.” The editorial criticized any policy revision that would place journalists in legal jeopardy for publishing leaked material. “Forty-nine states and the District of Columbia have laws granting journalists some protection against being required to testify [regarding a source’s identity], but the federal government doesn’t,” according to the Tribune.

Sessions’ press conference took place in the wake of numerous leaks concerning the Trump campaign’s contact with Russian government officials and a subsequent investigation into the matter by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. On Twitter, the President called the leaks “illegal,” and said they “must stop.”

Ben Wizner, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project reacted to Sessions’ announcement by saying, “Every American should be concerned about the Trump administration’s threat to step up its efforts against whistleblowers and journalists. A crackdown on leaks is a crackdown on the free press and on democracy as a whole.” He continued, “our founders understood that democracy depends on an informed citizenry, and leaders can’t be trusted to disclose vital information that reflects poorly on themselves. These first months of the Trump administration dramatically illustrate that point. Can anyone seriously argue that our country would be better off if the public received all of its information through official channels alone?”

The Post notes that in 2007, Vice President Mike Pence, then serving in the U.S. House of Representatives, proposed legislation to protect journalists from being forced to disclose their sources. The “Free Flow of Information Act” was inspired by the case of Judith Miller, a former reporter for The New York Times who refused to disclose a government source who had leaked the name of a Central Intelligence Agency operative named Valerie Plame. “As a conservative who believes in limited government, I believe the only check on government power in real time is a free and independent press,” Pence said about his bill, according to Fox News. Pence’s legislation, which was endorsed by the society of professional journalists, was never passed into law, reports the Post.

External References:

In tweet storm, Trump decries ‘illegal leaks’ and asserts ‘all agree’ he has complete power to pardon, The Washington Post

Jeff Sessions might subpoena journalists to reveal leakers. Mike Pence once fought against that, The Washington Post

Trump administration threatens freedom of the press in new leaks crackdown, Newsweek

Press freedom and the war on leaks: Back off, Mr. Sessions, The Chicago Tribune

Don’t make the press collateral damage in a war on leaks, Los Angeles Times

ACLU comment on Justice Department announcement on leak investigations, ACLU

Prepared by Will Haskell ’18

September 14, 2017