The Constitution protects Americans’ speech from being restricted by government actors. On Monday, however, the opposite happened, when Texas State Rep. Briscoe Cain was scheduled to speak on the campus of Texas Southern University’s Thurgood Marshall School of Law.
Cain, who was brought to speak by the school’s Federalist Society, could barely get a word out, as dozens of protesters shouted him down with chants like, “No hate anywhere, you don’t get a platform here!” The protesters claim that Cain is a part of the alt-right anti-LGBT, having opposed government funding for inmates’ sexual reassignment surgeries.
“He just stands for hatred and bigotry on a scale that isn’t deserving of a place or platform here at TSU,” law student Justin Tolston told local KHOU.
Not everyone agreed with the protest’s tactics. Tolston’s fellow student, Preston Strickland said, “I would’ve heard what he had to say in order to challenge his stand, because now he’s moving on to the next, and we haven’t educated him on our perspective and where we come from.”
Eventually, protesters were told to leave the room, but Cain still didn’t get to speak, as University President Dr. Austin Lane shut down the whole event and told police officers to let those who were sent out to come in.
“What you’re seeing today is an unapproved event,” Lane said, claiming the Federalist Society didn’t follow proper procedures in scheduling the program.
Daniel Caldwell, the president of the student group, took issue with that statement, saying, “I know, for a certainty, that I followed every step required for our handbook.”
Rep. Cain said in a statement after leaving campus:
Today I attended an event scheduled by the TSU chapter of the Federalist Society a few months ago. I was greeted by campus officials, given a guest parking voucher, and brought into a room in which the administration had specifically requested the talk occur. Then Black Lives Matter came in and bullied the administration into ending the event. It’s a sad day for universities across Texas whenever speech and a variety of views are prevented from being presented due to bullies.
TSU said in a statement:
Texas Southern University welcomes free speech and all viewpoints on campus as part of our collegiate experience. Today’s event, which was scheduled at Thurgood Marshall School of Law, ended early because it was not a registered university student organization event.
Our campus is open and welcoming to all state and elected officials. TSU President Dr. Austin Lane was meeting with a state senator when he received word of the event at the Thurgood Marshall School of Law. Dr. Lane went to the event to see State Rep. Briscoe Cain, students and faculty, and then learned that it was an unauthorized Texas Southern University student organization event. Our vice president of Student Affairs has since met with the student organizer and informed him of university procedures. Several events have been cancelled in the past on campus because procedures were not followed. We welcome the return of any guest speaker for deliberative dialogue on our campus in accordance with university procedures.
[Image via KHOU screengrab]