111 Livingston Street – Suite 1928 Brooklyn, New York 11201 (718) 855-3627


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Contact: Kenneth A. Leitner, Esq. (718) 855-3627

Civil Rights Group Warns the University of New Mexico that Knowingly Permitting Anti-Israel Protesters to Violate the Constitutional Rights of Others Would Expose it to Litigation
Calls on the school to stand on the side of the silenced rather than on that of the silencers
(April 4, 2012, New York) A civil rights litigation group, the Global Frontier Justice Center (“GFJC”), has sent a letter to University of New Mexico President Dr. David J. Schmidly warning him that encouraging or knowingly permitting hostile students to violate the constitutional rights of other students would likely amount to a civil rights violation on the part of the University. The GFJC letter was written in connection with the school’s investigation following protests on the University of New Mexico campus on February 23rd during which a lecture by Ms. Nonie Darwish was severely disrupted by anti-Israel student hecklers. Because university security was not present at the lecture hall at the time Ms. Darwish’s speech was interrupted, members of the audience attempted to peaceably eject the protesters from the lecture hall. The protesters violently resisted efforts of the audience members and then sought to have them punished. Largely as a result, the University has alleged that at least one audience member violated the school’s code of conduct when he attempted to restore order. GFJC Director, Attorney Kenneth Leitner stated, “We are aware of numerous similar instances in which Muslim and anti-Israel student organizations have sought to monopolize the marketplace of ideas by denying their opponents the right to speak.” He added that the speaker interruptions are similar and questioned “whether these obstructionist groups are cooperating and consulting with each other.” According to the GFJC, the speaker, audience and the sponsoring organizations that the protesters interrupted have protected constitutional rights, including the rights to freely associate and to express their views. In fact, their rights to expressive association are enhanced in cases

April 4, 2012 Page 2

like these where protesters seek to prevent them from expressing their views in a non-peaceful manner. Further, their disruption might have been criminal. New Mexico Statute § 30-13-1(B) provides that it is a misdemeanor to disturb “any meeting of the people assembled for any legal object.” GFJC Counsel Meir Katz added: “Certainly student objectors have a right to protest a campus event. However, the constitutional right to free speech does not include a right to prevent others from speaking. On the contrary, protests that disrupt the peace or liberty of others are typically denied constitutional protection.” The GFJC letter notes that if the University were to punish audience members who tried to restore order without adequate justification, not only will it open itself up to civil rights litigation, it will embolden the hostile protesters who will show up and disrupt the next assembly with which they disagree. Leitner explained that “When a group of students sets out to disrupt the constitutional rights of others, it is they who must be held accountable for the consequences. In the name of free speech, of open discussion and of education, we urge the University of New Mexico to stand on the side of the silenced rather than on that of the silencers.” The Global Frontier Justice Center is a civil rights law organization dedicated to enforcing basic human rights through the legal system. For a copy of the letter click here: