Monday, March 10, 2008

Banned in 'Bama

When is a performance a crime? At the University of Alabama, it seems to be when you're protesting the government. On Feb. 29, four people were arrested for staging a performance on campus where two people dressed as military were pretending to arrest Iraqis. The charges were "disorderly conduct," which is the common catch-all for arresting people who haven't committed a real crime.

It's worth noting that the arrest took place after the performance, when they were speaking to the crowd, so there is no possibility that anyone might have mistaken this fake "raid" for a real event. Dean of Students Tim Hebson called the protest "disruptive," "alarming" and "mimicking a true emergency." However, there's nothing illegal about being alarming. And certainly no one seemed to think it was an emergency, based on the news account: "Throughout all this, people began to gather around the area to see what was going on. Most people looked perplexed, and a few people took out their cameras." Perplexing people simply isn't a crime.

Jason Hurd from Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) was scheduled to speak that evening, but his talk was banned due to him being detained for four hours and then arrested. Two students involved in the protest were also arrested and are being investigated for campus punishment as well.

As far as cases of campus censorship go, the arrest and banishment of a campus speaker certainly ranks among the worst cases in recent times. No doubt the conservative defenders of free speech will quickly express their outrage about this case.

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