Anti-abortion speaker schools UOPD Officer on the 1st Amendment

UO Undergraduate Thomas Tullis got the video of a UOPD Officer making some extremely false statements about the First Amendment, to an extremely patient anti-abortion protester. The cop is very calm and professional about trying to keep the peace, but everything he says about UO and free speech is completely unconstitutional and utterly wrong. Kudos to UOPD Chief McDermed, who understands how badly her officers blew it. Story in the Emerald here:

UO Police Chief Carolyn McDermed submitted a statement to The Emerald:

“As free speech is a cornerstone of a public university, we expect our officers to understand the relevant laws and police, and do their professional best to protect the speech rights of everyone on campus, while ensuring safe access to our facilities and public rights of way. All UOPD officers will be reminded of the relevant laws and policies, and their role in protecting the safe practice of free speech on our campus.”

Tullis’s entire video, with annotations – is well worth watching:

Since it seems the UOPD needs a reminder about why we have police, UO’s Free Speech policy is here. We’re a University. We like free speech. Free speech that makes us uncomfortable is the most important kind of speech, we like it the best, and we pay our police to protect it the most:

Freedom of Inquiry and Free Speech

The University of Oregon values and supports free and open inquiry. The commitment to free speech and freedom of inquiry described in this policy extends to all members of the UO community: Faculty, staff, and students. It also extends to all others who visit or participate in activities held on the UO campus.

Free speech is central to the academic mission and is the central tenet of a free and democratic society. The University encourages and supports open, vigorous, and challenging debate across the full spectrum of human issues as they present themselves to this community. Further, as a public institution, the University will sustain a higher and more open standard for freedom of inquiry and free speech than may be expected or preferred in private settings.

Free inquiry and free speech are the cornerstones of an academic institution committed to the creation and transfer of knowledge. Expression of diverse points of view is of the highest importance, not solely for those who present and defend some view but for those who would hear, disagree, and pass judgment on those views. The belief that an opinion is pernicious, false, and in any other way despicable, detestable, offensive or “just plain wrong” cannot be grounds for its suppression.

The University supports free speech with vigor, including the right of presenters to offer opinion, the right of the audience to hear what is presented, and the right of protesters to engage with speakers in order to challenge ideas, so long as the protest does not disrupt or stifle the free exchange of ideas. It is the responsibility of speakers, listeners and all members of our community to respect others and to promote a culture of mutual inquiry throughout the University community.

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24 Responses to Anti-abortion speaker schools UOPD Officer on the 1st Amendment

  1. Ben says:

    Kudos to the SGT for correcting a recent cadet’s creative application of non-law.

    Anti-kudos to the female officer who ignored criminal activity as Allison Rutledge committed theft and vandalism, and also for not acting on the student who further damaged the sign.

    Shame on the history dean if Rutledge is not disciplined after this is sorted out. (Unless someone else is a better authority over a history major in need of remedial law history classes?)

  2. anonec says:

    At 1:15: “This is a privately owned institution…”

    Disturbing… and JH thinks it has a branding issue.

  3. just disgusting cardboard says:

    Going rogue here – kudos to Rutledge. Sure they’re legal, but those signs are designed to be utterly disgusting and I understand the rage. We don’t see huge placards of veterans losing legs (protest war), outcome of prostate surgery (protest I don’t know, medical fundings), lynchings (protest racism) – why? Generally, common decency of not throwing disturbing images in other people’s faces. We don’t see free-speech-protected pornography on huge placards only because of ‘community standards.’ But we see these signs because religious wingnuts want us to. Thank you Rutledge for stomping on the sign!

    • just cardboard ... really? says:

      Yeah, and who is going to successfully define “common decency”? You advocate intolerance because YOUR sense of “decency” is denied.

    • Ben says:

      Are you an “ends justify the means” kind of person?

    • anonec says:

      There are disgusting labels on cigarette packages to prevent smoking. Disgusting posters/labels cannot be the universal measure of what is bearable in an open democratic society.

      I have a lot of sympathies for her position but I think she crossed two lines – intimidation and vandalism. I never liked many positions of protesters around EMU but I thought it was always comforting that students argued with them verbally – and once I saw even how students “protected” a protester with whom they disagreed heavily from Public Safety (back then).

      I really hope that there is no change in the climate since Public Safety became UOPD and students argue now in different ways in controversial argumentations.

      “Freedom is always the freedom of dissenters.”

  4. Pou says:

    This video is the first time I have ever seen the face of a UOPD officer. Up to this point, I had only seen silhouettes through the tinted windows of their militarized SUVs. I always wondered why they were so unwilling to interact with the people they are charged with serving — I guess know now.

  5. Fishwrapper says:

    If anyone sees this officer on duty in the next two weeks then there is a major problem…

  6. just disgusting cardboard says:

    I think the protesters violate this tenet: ‘It is the responsibility of speakers, listeners and all members of our community to respect others and to promote a culture of mutual inquiry throughout the University community.’
    Professional religious protester holding disgusting signs does not exactly promote a culture of mutual inquiry.

    • LArdman says:

      So you have a right not to not be offended? And the UOPD get to decide what viewpoints are permitted on campus?

    • just cardboard ... really? says:

      How does it not promote inquiry? What is a “professional religious protester”? Aren’t you curious to talk with him about his deeply held views and why he thinks the way he does? What “mutual inquiry” does shutting down protesters achieve? Do you think a woman screaming out ‘you don’t have a vagina so therefore you can’t speak to this issue’ promotes mutual inquiry and doesn’t violate the tenet of mutual respect?

      • Someone From the Library says:

        Firstly, I am ALWAYS glad to see Johnny Law shut down for unconstitutional behavior.

        That said, no, I am not interested in finding out about that person’s deeply held views, because he makes it obvious he does not want to know about mine. The exchange is unilateral, and it is conducted in a way that could be (to be unfashionably PC) profoundly triggering to people who rely on campus to be a safe space for work and education. The responders’ may have behaved childishly, but this response was not unprovoked. Is the intentional provocation of hostility not the generation of a hostile environment?

        When we read a publication, attend a protest, or subscribe to a news feed, we agree implicitly to the exposure. Walking through a public space does not constitute consent.

        Bring on the downvotes.

  7. just disgusting cardboard says:

    I freely admit that I am not adhering to the logical lines of the topic that UOPD should uphold the law, and the law seems to support these professional religious protesters’ rights to intentionally shock people with disgusting photos. I am instead using this venue to express an opinion – my own opinion – that I don’t think shocking disgusting placards are particularly in line with ‘promoting a culture of mutual inquiry.’ I also think that the line that it is *everybody’s* responsibility to ‘respect others’ means that protesters have a responsibility to be respectful in their methods. My example is that most campus antiwar protesters do not choose to show giant placards of limbs being blown off of veterans, or other shocking images that would be particularly distressful to see. I expressed sympathy for Rutledge’s response because I also feel very angry that these particular protesters choose to use ‘shock and disgust’ methods. Expressing sympathy and anger at the people provoking such an emotional response is not the same as negating legal rights.

    • just cardboard ... really? says:

      So, are you pro-abortion? Pro partial-birth abortion? If you aren’t, then I could understand your view. And I doubt you know what most anti war protester placards read, but what if they are shocking and distressful? Life is shocking and distressful, and people can’t hope to cocoon themselves off into utopian worlds where they don’t get “triggered”.

      To me, Rutledge’s response, and a couple others, were immature and aggressive.

  8. just disgusting cardboard says:

    Here is a link to ‘professional’ antiabortion protesters’ explanations of how to handle their graphic signs. They recommend warning signs be posted because the images are so disturbing, and give talking points on how to handle children afterwards.
    Here is a link to someone agreeing with the importance of protecting potentially distressing free speech. They also think the guys on the Oklahoma bus should’ve been protected.

  9. meh says:

    That is the mildest ‘bad police behavior’ video I’ve ever seen.

    • Fishwrapper says:

      I inadvertently clicked the “thumbs up” button, and I intended to click the “thumbs down” button instead.

      It is not appropriate, in many ways, to compare police beating a prone human, or choking a man, or shooting a child, or any number of physical brutalities to what we saw in the video at UO. On the surface, we see a uniformed, and armed, officer seemingly earnestly attempting to moderate a very loud situation. No one got hurt, unless, of course, you feel a disproportionate amount of empathy for printed materials.

      While it it very important to notice that no none was killed, it is nevertheless extremely disturbing to see a uniformed, uniformed, and armed officer of the law – not a mall cop, but an officer of the law – get so much so wrong so quickly. Without the sergeant’s intervention, the suppression of speech that was the officer’s interpretation of the “best” way to manage the situation is a very disturbing look into the values of the man sworn to serve and protect.

      I am grateful no one was physically assaulted, but we as a “the people” who continue to form a what we must hope is a more perfect union cannot allow as egregious an assault of free speech – no matter how heinous – to go unchallenged and unremarked.

      Yes, the campus setting makes it even more so poignant and upsetting on so many levels.

      This man in a peace officer’s uniform was armed by UO to “protect” your rights and keep your liberty secure.


  10. theyRafraid says:

    I love it when dummies fall for the bait these religious protestors toss out. There’s always a couple of idiots who try to engage them and that is exactly what they want. The student or students grabbing the sign and interfering with his right to speech need to be held accountable by the school. You can sure as hell bet if positions were switched that the students would be screaming for accountability. Anyone recall the faculty member who pushed some students around? I can’t recall if he was arrested but I think he faced some criminal charges for thinking it was fine to push some protestors around. Keep your hands off people and respect the rights of others whether you agree or disagree with the message. And the UOPD cop giving advice on how the 1st amendment works might want to consider a different career. The nonsense he was spewing was unbelievable. I thought cops got a bit better legal training than this and you would think a university cop would be bit smarter. That cop came off as smug and arrogant only to show all how big a fool he is.

  11. just disgusting cardboard says:

    And there you have it, plainly written. The goal of these ‘religious protesters’ is to bait ‘dummies’. They show provocative signs with intention to incite violent reaction. Professional religious protesters coming onto campus with the desire to provoke students to violence, not to engage in a free exchange of ideas. It’s like a con, right? Trick people into an angry response that might result in illegal behavior, and get more publicity for their cause? And you’re hammering on a student who ‘fell for bait’ that is deliberately designed, tested, and proven, and deployed to make people angry? I’m not- I’m angry at the professional ‘protesters’ for bringing their con game to campus.

  12. I’m reminded of Jesse Jackson’s response when he was asked what an appropriate reaction was to the meeting of the Pacifica Forum on campus a few years ago.

    He said, “The first thing that you do is you love them. The second thing that you do is ignore them.”

  13. just disgusting cardboard says:

    The Rev. Jesse Jackson has been arrested at least twice for illegal behavior during protests, including a 2007 criminal trespass charge:)
    However – yes indeed, although I stop short of ‘love,’ taking the high road of tolerance towards opponents and appropriate civil action would be the correct response. I am sure that this student has now heard many renditions of alternative, legal responses, and I hope that she maintains her fervor and channels it into an effective, legal format.

    • pfft says:

      “I am sure that this student has now heard many renditions of alternative, legal responses, and I hope that she maintains her fervor and channels it into an effective, legal format.”

      Because that would certainly promote mutual respect and uphold your tenets, right? Joker.

      • just disgusting cardboard says:

        I’m hoping that a young student who has strongly held beliefs finds a way to channel them into a legal and effective format, and you’re calling that being a ‘joker’? How strange.

  14. Fishwrapper says:

    One thing I noticed in the video that I have noticed many times over the years: When officers of the law are engaged in conversation with people on the street, especially in situations like this one where confrontation is part and parcel of the duty, the office is often – even likely – to state their case with one hand on or very near by their sidearm.

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