Friday, December 02, 2005

Article on our Free Speech Zone protest

FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE: Standing up for what they believe
STAND and FIRE have two different approaches to protesting for their causes

By: Luke McIntyre
Issue date: 11/29/05 Section: Opinions

Almost two weeks ago, a group of both UNCG students and non-students
emailed the Office of Student Life with the announcement that they
would be meeting on the library lawn and holding a protest. They were
going to meet in front of the library to protest the free speech zone
some fifty yards away. Their email, thought it was sent only the night
before, did not go unread and police showed up to the site thirty
minutes before the group did. Even with the police present they set up
their signs and quietly stood in protest to university policy. The
group was separate from but promoting an organization called FIRE, or
Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. Their signs declared
"UNCG hates free speech" and that we attend "UNC-Gestapo."

Their obvious intentions were to break the rule and to get some sort
of reaction from university officials, which sort of happened. Perhaps
it had something to do with the cameramen present, but the police
decided that since the group wasn't breaking any other rules that they
could stand where they were. It's not like they were laying down in
the street or anything. Then, as if the sweet gods of irony decided to
rain their sarcastic gifts upon us, another protest group showed up
and laid in the street.

Members of STAND, or Students Taking Action Now: Darfur, showed up for
a die-in. A die-in is like a sit-in except, of course, you pretend
you're dead. Unfortunately for them, police were already nearby and
this protest group was breaking another rule. They were obstructing an
emergency vehicle pathway by laying forty or so people down in the
middle of College Avenue.

Much like the first sit-in that coincidentally took place in 1960-era
Greensboro, these students made a symbolic protest to bring attention
to their cause. Unlike the four A&T students who so bravely demanded
service at a whites-only lunch counter however, when these protesters
were threatened with arrest they fled as if they had been set aflame.
All it took was one threat from a police officer and the die-in
participants suddenly sprung to life. Then, in a gesture they probably
thought defiant, some of the protesters linked arms and began walking
up and down College Avenue. I say some because several people
abandoned the protest altogether after police came. It was really as
if they had completely forgotten that they just folded by following
police orders to get off the ground and they thought their new protest
was really sticking it to the man. The man, were he present, would
probably have been holding in his laughter.

Unlike the STAND protesters, Allison Jaynes, who organized the free
sppech protest, and her group stayed put despite threats of
punishment. Jaynes herself said that she showed up that day expecting
to "either get arrested or tried by the Student Code." It was for this
reason that they employed two camera men to film the event, with at
least one other camera filming from a hidden spot if police attempted
to confiscate their tapes. In comparison, we can really see how
dedicated STAND is to fighting the genocide in Darfur.

The free speech protesters did a bit more than stand with signs, they
got results. At the protest was Associate Director of Student Life
Checka Leinwall, who spoke with several protesters and promised a
meeting to discuss the free speech zones. In the end, Jaynes' group
took their free speech by force.

I thought it quite funny when, while protesters and police were
battling it out in the middle of campus, some poor tour guide had to
bring a group of high school kids and their parents through what
looked like a scene from PCU. Then someone joked that the tour group
was blocking the sidewalk, which made me think about the Darfur
protest, which made me laugh. But later, after I composed myself,
something occurred to me. If College Avenue is really a road intended
for emergency traffic and can't be blocked, then what are university
employees doing zipping up and down it on golf carts? Emergency
traffic means only the vehicles that are carrying police, firefighters
or paramedics, not maintenance vehicles or anything else. But at UNCG,
as I always forget, if something is university sanctioned then they
obviously don't need to follow university policy.


Log on to Luke's blog at www.livejournal.com/~luke_mcintyre.

2 Comments:

Blogger Cap'n Groovy said...

I read your story on Dr. Mike Adams's website. It's disgusting what our campuses have turned into that "free speech" is regulated. I typically do not write letters to universities I have not attended, but after hearing your story feel so compelled. Best of luck in your challenge of the so-called violation.

2:55 PM  
Blogger Allison Jaynes said...

Thanks! Any amount of added pressure on that administration is very welcome.

10:57 AM  

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