Jeff Sessions’ speech condemned by Georgetown law professors who knelt in protest

Georgetown Law Professors Kneel in Protest of Jeff Sessions’ Speech

Georgetown Law Professors Kneel in Protest of Jeff Sessions’ Speech

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Sept. 26 2017 12:05 PM

Georgetown Law Professors Kneel in Protest of Jeff Sessions’ Speech

AG-Jeff-Sessions-Holds-Vigil-Ceremony-To-Mark-Anniversary-Of-911-Attacks
Sessions on Sept. 11 in Washington.

Zach Gibson/Getty Images

In response to a scheduled talk about campus free speech by Jeff Sessions at Georgetown University Law Center on Tuesday afternoon, law professors took a knee outside the auditorium, where student protests also formed.

More than 30 Georgetown Law faculty members also signed a letter in which they acknowledge Sessions’ right to be there but “condemn the hypocrisy of Attorney General Sessions speaking about free speech.”

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In the statement, the professors cited Trump’s call for professional athletes who protest during the national anthem to be fired, and they contrasted his labeling these protesters “sons of bitches” with his previous comments that some participants in a white supremacist rally were “very fine people.”

They also went on to point to the Justice Department’s prosecution for disorderly and disruptive conduct of a woman who laughed at Jeff Sessions’ confirmation hearing and the department’s efforts to have a web hosting company hand over data associated with an online protest of Trump’s inauguration.

“These are just three examples of governmental action antithetical to freedom of speech and association for which Attorney General Sessions is either closely affiliated or directly responsible,” the professors wrote in the letter. “A man who fails to recognize paradigmatic violations of the First Amendment is a poor choice to speak about free speech on campuses.”

They also condemned Sessions’ positions on civil rights issues, and in particular regarding voting rights, Islamic versus domestic extremism, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, and police shootings of unarmed black men.

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As attorney general, Sessions has defended voter ID laws, which disproportionately affect people of color, and championed state efforts to purge voter rolls. He helped persuade Trump to terminate DACA and justified the decision with falsehoods. He attacked sanctuary cities. And his DOJ, which has often emphasized the need to be tough on crime, declined to charge the police officer who shot and killed Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

According to the New York Times, some Georgetown students expressed frustration that their reservations to the event were canceled last minute and they were told that they could not attend because they were not part of the law center’s student invitation list.

Earlier this week, the alt-right free speech movement took a hit when hyped plans for a free-speech event hosted by Milo Yiannopoulos at the University of California, Berkeley, mostly fizzled out. In February, when violent protests shut down a planned speech by Yiannopolous, Trump tweeted a threat to cut off federal funding to the school.

Molly Olmstead is a Slate assistant social media editor.