The University of Washington College Republicans, a 25-member student group, has invited Patriot Prayer to take part in a rally on campus on Saturday, February 10, 2018. As far as I can tell, Patriot Prayer has never committed nor advocated violence of any kind but have had members physically attacked by leftist activists.
UW Police Chief John Vinson released a statement saying the security cost “is likely to exceed the $17,000 estimate provided by UWPD.” He further stated what seemed an obligatory and contradictory statement regarding the university’s “support” of College Republicans’ “right to invite speakers.”
Well, it doesn’t seem like the invitation part is the problem; the problem appears to be having the guest on campus to speak at all.
It seems leftist student groups don’t get charged similar fees. Let’s think about why they don’t. Perhaps it’s because conservative groups don’t act violently to shut down the left’s free speech rights like the left does to the right. Maybe conservatives believe in the power of persuasion rather than conflagration.
The UW is telling the college club they must pay the $17,000 for their event. Remember, this is a group comprised of a couple dozen students. Seems prohibitive, doesn’t it? Especially because the students would be paying a public university a fee for permission to exercise their First Amendment rights.
Does this sound familiar? If it does, it could be because it’s reminiscent of another similarly vile political act: the poll tax.
In some places in the United States, particularly the south, governments charged a tax to vote that some people, especially black Americans, could not afford, thus abridging their rights to vote. Isn’t that what’s happening at the UW, but for free speech instead of the right to vote?
People are being charged a fee to be allowed to exercise a constitutional right. Is it right to hold a political group responsible for how another group feels about its speech and, further, for the violence the opposition is prepared to do to stop that speech?
Let’s think about it in reverse. John Carlson, of KVI radio, brought up some apt examples on his show. What if the NAACP invited a guest to the UW campus to speak? What if some racist thugs threatened to disrupt the event violently? Does anyone think the UW would ever charge the NAACP a penny for security?
Anyone think the UW would charge a fee to a gay rights or pro-choice group for any gathering, even if threatened with violence from an opposing group? Never! In fact, the university administration would wear a badge of honor for standing up to the political bullies who would dare to disrupt such a student event. Why should the UW’s obligation to its students’ free speech be any less when it comes from the right? Does the University of Washington really hold its conservative and Republican students in such contempt?
Carlson suggested the UW, where he was a leader of the Young Republicans as a student, sue students and groups who violently disrupt the event and expel students who resist arrest. In a reminder to UW leaders, he emphasized that violent disruption of someone else’s rights is not civil disobedience; it’s a criminal act.
But, since Carlson is speaking from the political right, even as an alumnus, I’m not sure the UW administration is likely to hear his message.