“University of California, Davis canceled a conservative speaker event after protesters clashed outside the venue. The school has an anti-cop history, especially since 2020,” which left it unprepared for the disruption that shut down the speech, reports Campus Reform.
An event sponsored by the conservative group Turning Point USA (TPUSA) was shut down after protesters initiated a brawl outside of the event, raising safety risks that the university failed to address or plan for.
The event planned to feature the speaker Stephen Davis, also known as “MAGA Hulk,” on Oct. 25. However, around 100 protesters and counter-protesters clashed before the event began, resulting in “pepper spray being used, barricades being knocked down and traffic cones being removed.”
Video taken from the site of the event showed a college official informing attendees the event was being canceled. “Do not engage with any demonstrators, okay? Our ability to keep everyone safe is contingent on that,” the official said.
Students inside the event location were then escorted out of it and away from a swarm of angry protestors. Video captured a girl being maced by protesters. “They destroyed my property, took it away from me. They don’t even know I’m a conservative,” she said.
The head of the university’s media relations department, Melissa Blouin, stated that no UC Davis police officers were deployed to the scene.
In society as a whole, the government can’t cancel a speech because protesters try to shut it down. That’s a violation of the First Amendment, according to the Supreme Court’s decision in Terminiello v. Chicago (1949). But school officials argue that schools are not likely society as a whole, and thus have more leeway to shut down speech that people respond to with disruptions or violence. In the K-12 setting, courts have sometimes allowed speech to be shut down because of a potentially hostile reaction, such as when a federal appeals court allowed students in one school to be prevented from wearing American flag T-shirts on Cinco de Mayo, a Mexican holiday celebrated by many Mexican students. Courts often say college students have broader free-speech rights than K-12 students. But college officials want to have the same power to restrict speech that K-12 schools have.
UC Davis was left ill-prepared to prevent protesters from brawling because it has an understaffed police force that it is reluctant to use. “UC Davis has made numerous efforts to defund its police department, leaving university officials unprepared for protests such as the late October incident,” reports Campus Reform:
In November 2021, UC Davis announced that it would be eliminating three officer positions on campus and replacing them with non-police personnel. “Based on both local and systemwide recommendations, three vacant uniformed officer positions in the UC Davis Police Department have been eliminated, resulting in funds for three key positions to support reforms: a public safety policy analyst in Student Affairs; an analyst position to support data, accreditation and transparency efforts within the Police Department; and a new position dedicated to the Health 34 initiative,” UC Davis wrote in its press release…..
In June of 2020, UC Davis School of Law held a “Police Violence, Race, and Protest” forum. The forum drew in over 175 students, faculty, and alumni who “express[ed] their grief and sadness regarding the most recent examples of systemic violence toward people of color,” according to the school’s website. “Students and others made thoughtful suggestions, from enhancing critical race theory in the 1L curriculum to holding more public lectures featuring people of color who have been directly affected by the criminal justice system,” the article read.