Free speech under attack at the University of Pennsylvania

Last Friday, protesters at the University of Pennsylvania shut down a campus foreign policy discussion forum featuring CIA director John Brennan. They accomplished this by disrupting Brennan’s speech.

The protest was organized by Penn’s chapter of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). I shouldn’t be surprised that SDS, an odious and notoriously anti-democratic outfit from the 1960s to which I once belonged, is back. Heck, even the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), a violent, radical labor organization of the late 19th century, has been revived.

Everything bad is new again.

While Brennan was speaking at Penn, protesters chanted “the CIA is a terrorist organization,” “Drones kill kids,” and the ever-popular “Black lives matter,” a proposition the connection of which to Brennan and the CIA is unclear.

Brennan responded that drones are valuable weapons and observed that drone strikes have killed ISIS leaders. This made no impression on the rads, who, presumably, are neutral or likely worse about the killing of ISIS leaders. They began shouting, “No justice, no peace, no US in Middle East.” Then, inevitably, they also unfurled a Palestinian flag.

The event moderators, Marjorie Margolies (Chelea Clinton’s mother-in-law) and law school dean Theodore Ruger, tried to reason with the protesters. To no avail.

Reportedly, a Philadelphia-born Irishman in the crowd urged the protesters to allow Brennan to speak. One protester responded, “go back to your own country.” If the country in question had been Syria, say, the protester would have committed a hate crime.

Eventually, Brennan gave up his efforts to speak, but the protest continued. Security began ushering the crowd out of the auditorium.

As people were leaving, according to one forum attendee, an old woman from the audience stopped a black female protester and criticized her for interrupting the event. The old woman pointed her cane for emphasis. In response, the witness said, the protester ripped the cane from the old lady’s hands and threw it. “How dare you do that!” the protester reportedly yelled. “I’m not a slave. You’re not my slave master. You can’t tell me what to do!”

Afterward, The Statesman, a conservative-leaning publication at Penn, created an online petition calling for Penn’s SDS chapter to apologize “for the violent disruption of CIA director John Brennan’s speech.” Naturally, SDS refused. Like Donald Trump, the radical left doesn’t do apologies.

The accounts I have read say that some of the protesters weren’t Penn students. I’m pretty sure this is true. SDS has always relied to some extent on non-student agitators to disrupt college campuses.

There is no dispute, however, that Penn students participated in the shouting down of Brennan. Penn should discipline these students. But don’t hold your breath.