In a brazen act of censorship by the Northwestern University campus police, the distribution of the new “Friends of WikiLeaks – Chicago” leaflet was stopped cold in front of a packed, overflow crowd in a secondary auditorium who had gathered to hear the repulsive Democratic Party Mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel speak on the campus of Northwestern University (NU) in Evanston, Illinois on the night of November 28th.
The FoWL leaflet distro was ordered halted by an NU police officer on the grounds that the leaflet was “unauthorized material” being distributed on “private property” and as such would not be permitted. The NU cop responsible for initiating and carrying out the expulsion from the meeting of our FoWL member is Officer Heidi Martinez, Badge number 15 of the NU campus police department. She was assisted by an unknown male university police officer and, later, their actions were defended by their supervisor, Commander Davis. “You were on private property – they [meaning the two campus cops] have a right to do that… you go look up the law on that” stated Davis. “I’ve been doing this for thirty years and I know what I’m talking about.”
As if the actions of Officer Martinez – which were apparently taken on her own initiative, as the speech by Emanuel had not yet commenced and the meeting had not yet started when our FoWL member began distributing the leaflets – were not bad enough, she justified her use of force to stop the FoWL leaflet distribution in this way: “These kids’ parents have spent good money to pay for their childrens’ education and they don’t want them receiving unauthorized material”! This is how patronizingly the adult students at even the top US universities are treated these days by the University administrations and their cops!
It is not believed by us that the police had any idea what the content of the leaflets even consisted of, as the leaflet distribution had just begun when Officer Martinez issued her cease-and-desist order. Further evidence to back up that belief was supplied by Northwestern University Campus Police Commander Davis, who, after being told what our group was all about asked: “What is WikiLeaks”? Obviously, working as a campus police officer standing strong for civilization in the midst of the untameable wildness of campus life at Gomorrah-like Northwestern University must be so exhausting that it leaves the campus cops no time to read a newspaper, watch the TV news, listen to the radio or peruse a magazine, even! The poor things!
Our intrepid FoWL member protested his expulsion from the meeting during and after it occurred, and he continued to distribute all his remaining leaflets on the sidewalk outside the auditorium even after the cops tried to shoo him away. It is likely that the police censorship caused the members of the audience who had received the leaflets to read them even more closely after witnessing the campus cops’ outrageous behavior. On the next day, our FoWLer submitted the first complaint to the Northwestern University campus police. The Northwestern cops are now conducting an “investigation” of the incident.
Tonight (December 4th) our FoWL member who had submitted the complaint to the NU campus police department was contacted by telephone by Lieutenant Kenneth Jones (badge #5!) of the NU campus police, who asked our FoWL member to recount what had happened. Having done so, our intrepid FoWLer received the following bits of legal instruction from Lieut. Jones:
1) “Northwestern University is a private institution… the First Amendment [of the US Constitution] does not apply to a private institution… the First Amendment of the Constitution applies only to Federal, State and local governments – not to private institutions”!
2) “Passing out leaflets and newspapers during on-campus meetings is considered a ‘disruption’ of the meeting” – which is not allowed.
3) The police, by banning the distribution of leaflets and other printed materials during on-campus meetings are carrying out a policy of Northwestern University itself.
Our FoWLer asked Lieutenant Jones if this policy was posted at the auditorium on the night of Emanuel’s speech and was informed that it was not posted anywhere: “Whenever anyone is distributing leaflets outside a meeting we tell them that they are free to do so but that they can not bring that stuff inside and distribute it inside the building”. Our FoWLer asked where he could get a copy of that policy; Lieut. Jones did not know. “It must be a written policy, taught to every new police officer when they are hired by the University, right? Or are you just making it up right now as we are talking?” our FoWLer inquired. No, Lt. Jones responded, it is an actual policy – but he did not know where he could obtain a copy of it or inform us of where we could find it. Lt. Jones asked our FoWLer to call him tomorrow morning (December 5th) after 10 AM and he would have more information about the policy.
Our FoWLer also wanted to know who the group was that sponsored the Emanuel speaking engagement on the night in question; Lt. Jones replied that it was “the ‘One Book, One Northwestern’ organization. Our FoWL member asked Lt. Jones if he knew what their phone number was, or their email address; Lt. Jones said we “could look it up”. So we did. And we looked up some other stuff, too.
Despite all the absurd back-and-forth our intrespid FoWLer had to go through with Lt. Jones over the subject of the Universitie’s policies regarding the distribution of written materials during public events held at the University, and whether or not those policeies followed by the police are published or not – it turns out that not only does Northwestern have a published set of policies regarding proper, acceptable behavior for all its employees, professional staff and students; it is REQUIRED by its own bylaws to publish them! And here they are!
Apparently unknown to the University’s own police department, the University Policies are prominently featured on the University’s comprehensive, well-designed website. And, try as we might, we could not find anything resembling the sweeping authority to prevent leaflet distributions at on-campus meetings that Officer Martinez, Commander Davis and Lieutenant Jones claim the Univerisity has granted to the campus police department!
First, there is the policy requiring the publication of all policies (.pdf), which states:
“All University Policies must be developed, approved and published in accordance with the standards outlined in this Policy and must be published on the University’s central policy web page.”
Lieutenant Jones was apparently unaware of this policy and the basic fact that all these University policies are published on the official Northwestern university website!
Now, look at this one: Policy on Disruption (.pdf).
It speaks directly to Lt. Jones’ assertion that “distributing pamphlets during a public meeting is, in itself, a “disruption”; turns out, what constitutes a ‘disruption” of a meeting is spelled out in the University Policies – and, surprise, surprise – nowhere does the policy state that distributing leaflets during a meeting qualifies as a “disruption” of that meeting:
“Disruption is any action that interferes with, interrupts, or impedes the holding of classes, the carrying out of University business, or the arrangements for properly authorized and scheduled University events. A person attempts to disrupt when, with the intent to disrupt, that person does any act that constitutes a substantial step toward disruption.” This policy, of course, our leaflet distribution, carried out before the commencement of the meeting itself, did not violate in any way. Strike 2, Lt. Jones!
Lastly, we found the University’s policy relating to the use of the University’s facilities for political meetings. Nowhere here does the University outlaw the distribution of written materials of any kind during public meetings of a political nature. Strike Three, Lt. Jones!
We attempted to contact Lt. Jones on December 5th in order to obtain from him a copy of the University’s policies related to the distribution of “unauthorized” printed material at public events held at the University; he has yet to return our phone call even though he specifically asked our FoWL member to call him to obtain the University policies in question.
We intend to pursue this matter with the folks at “One Book, One Northwestern” as well as the University’s Law Department, the Student Government, the Student newspapers and possibly through independent legal channels. Keep an eye on this website for further developments in this case.
FoWL – Chicago