More than 100 Yale Law School students ambushed and disrupted a recent free speech panel — and added enough intimidation to the mix that police were called to escort the speakers to safety.
What are the details?
The March 10 panel hosted by the Yale Federalist Society featured Monica Miller of the progressive American Humanist Association and Kristen Waggoner of Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative nonprofit promoting religious liberty, the Washington Free Beacon reported.
The outlet said the opposing groups took the same side in a 2021 Supreme Court case on legal remedies for First Amendment violations — and the Yale event was meant to show that a liberal atheist and a conservative Christian could find common ground on free speech issues, the Yale Federalist Society said, according to the Free Beacon.
But when law school professor Kate Stith began to introduce Waggoner, the nearly 120 protesters — who outnumbered other onlookers — stood up and held signs attacking Alliance Defending Freedom, the outlet said.
ADF has successfully argued several Supreme Court cases on religious exemptions from civil rights laws that violate freedom of conscience — in particular Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission in 2018, the outlet noted.
I will 'literally fight you, bitch'
Protesters also dug their claws into the Yale Federalist Society, with one protester telling a member of the group that she would "literally fight you, bitch," the Free Beacon reported, citing audio and video it obtained.
Stith then spoke up, reminding protesters of Yale's free speech policies which bar any protest that "interferes with speakers' ability to be heard and of community members to listen," the outlet said.
When protesters heckled and raised middle fingers at Stith, the Free Beacon said she told them all to "grow up."
As you might guess — based on the protesters' collective attitude — they reacted with shocked howls and shouts at panelists and declarations that their outbursts are "free speech."
Stith then told them if their disturbances persisted, she would "ask you to leave — or help you leave."
Yale Law Students Revolt Against Free Speech youtu.be
When the protesters exited — one yelled "f*** you, FedSoc" — they stayed in the outside hall and began to stomp, shout, clap, sing, and pound the walls, making it difficult to hear the panel, the outlet said.
Protesters' chants of "protect trans kids" and "shame, shame" were so loud that nearby classes, exams, and faculty meetings were disrupted, the Free Beacon said, citing students and a professor who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Associate dean was there
Ellen Cosgrove, the law school's associate dean, attended the free speech panel and was there the entire time, the outlet said, adding that she did not confront any protesters.
The Free Beacon added that things seemed dangerous at times, with protesters blocking the only exit and two members of the Federalist Society saying they were grabbed and pushed while attempting to exit.
"It was disturbing to witness law students whipped into a mindless frenzy," Waggoner told the outlet. "I did not feel it was safe to get out of the room without security."
After the panel ended, police arrived to escort Waggoner and Miller from building, the Free Beacon said.
Majority of Yale Law students sign letter backing 'peaceful student protesters'
After the incident, more than 60% of the law school's student body signed an open letter supporting the "peaceful student protesters" they claimed had been threatened by the police just showing up, the outlet said.
"The danger of police violence in this country is intensified against Black LGBTQ people, and particularly Black trans people," the letter said, according to the Free Beacon. "Police-related trauma includes, but is certainly not limited to, physical harm. Even with all of the privilege afforded to us at [Yale Law School], the decision to allow police officers in as a response to the protest put YLS's queer student body at risk of harm."
The letter — signed by 417 students — also blasted Stith for telling protesters to "grow up" and the Federalist Society for hosting the event, which "profoundly undermined our community's values of equity and inclusivity," the outlet said.
Stith declined to comment, the Free Beacon noted.
"It feels wild to me that we're at this point in history, and some folks are still not immediately signing a letter like this," one student wrote to her class GroupMe, according to the outlet. "I'm sure you realize that not signing the letter is not a neutral stance."
An email to Miller — signed by 150 law students and sent before the panel took place — said she shouldn't participate, the Free Beacon said.
"We are at a loss to understand why the [American Humanist Association] ... has decided to legitimize an organization that is so actively hostile to queer flourishing," the email said, according to the outlet. "We urge you to withdraw from this event, which is little more than a thinly-disguised slap in the face to Yale Law's queer students and their allies."
In reaction, Miller told the Free Beacon that "as lawyers, we have to put aside our differences and talk to opposing counsel. If you can't talk to your opponents, you can’t be an effective advocate."
Waggoner also told the outlet, "Yale Law students are our future attorneys, judges, legislators, and corporate executives. We must change course and restore a culture of free speech and civil discourse at Yale and other law schools, or the future of the legal profession in America is in dire straits."
Other notable free speech advocates weigh in
Nicholas A. Christakis — Sterling Professor of Social and Natural Science at Yale — took note of the "immature behavior of students in the nation’s most elite law school" and also said they're guilty of "using florid language to voice their complaints, failing to ask well formulated questions of a speaker, and failing to understand the difference between protest and a heckler's veto."
Readers of TheBlaze may recall that Christakis was bullied by a mob of Yale students over his free speech views and eventually resigned from his position as master of Yale's residential Silliman College in 2016.
Other notable individuals agreed with Christakis:
- Jordan Peterson wondered, "Why does anyone still agree to speak on university campuses?"
- Barrie Weiss said "this is happening because of an epidemic of cowardice among the people meant to be leading these elite schools."
- U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) added that "left-wing children at Yale are so fragile they can't even tolerate a bipartisan panel on the First Amendment. Pathetic."
- Robert P. George — McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals & Institutions at Princeton University — tweeted that "it's hard to get the message through to people drunk on ideology and in possession of the privilege and power in their institutions that the Woke possess at Yale Law, but freedom of thought, inquiry, and speech are as essential to intellectual life as oxygen is to biological life."
- Jonathan Turley — Shapiro Chair of Public Interest Law at George Washington University — noted that the incident represented "an all-too-familiar pattern being played out across the country. The record of most schools is at best passive aggressive in declining to enforce their free speech rules. The result is a chilling effect on free speech that is perfectly glacial."