Free-market economist Arthur Laffer is hardly a controversial figure alongside conservative rabble-rousers like Milo Yiannopoulos, but even he was shouted down by a crowd of protesters during a lecture at a New York university.
A Reagan administration adviser best known for his contributions to supply-side economic theory, Laffer was scheduled to address a conservative group at Binghamton on Monday when a crowd of demonstrators stormed the lecture hall to protest the event.
I’m disgusted by the chaos we’ve witnessed erupt across the @binghamtonu campus over the past several days. Our college campuses should be places where ideas and peaceful discourse can be shared freely by all individuals, no matter their differing politics or opinions. pic.twitter.com/75QENYMlRv
— Senator Fred Akshar (@fredakshar) November 19, 2019
With many apparently seated in the audience and some wearing masks, the protesters erupted into cheers when one student stood to deliver a monologue on the injustices of the prison system through a bullhorn, grinding the lecture to a halt. Security guards soon arrived to clear away the protesters, prompting the crowd to erupt into chants of “free speech!” Two activists were arrested in the brief confrontation.
— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) November 19, 2019
Though Laffer is a relatively tame figure in conservative economics circles – certainly lacking the anti-PC bombast of Milo Yiannopoulos or the hard right ideology of Richard Spencer – his acceptance of the Medal of Freedom from President Donald Trump last summer was likely enough to seal his fate in the minds of the student activists.
Binghamton University was unequivocal in denouncing the protest, stressing the principles of free speech and the exchange of ideas, and said it reserved the right to pursue charges or “disciplinary action” against any students involved.
“The University is incredibly disappointed with the events that happened tonight, particularly given that demonstrators were provided an adjacent lecture hall to engage in a counter discussion,” the school said in a statement. “The protestors chose instead to infringe on the expressive activity of others and to prevent those who wished to hear the speaker from doing so.”
As an institution of higher education, freedom of speech is fundamental to our core mission; academic inquiry and the exchange of ideas rest on the principle that all have a right to express their beliefs.
After a recent altercation between students at an outdoor tabling event hosted by the university’s College Republicans chapter – which also ended with a police response – the school took extra steps to boost security for the Laffer speech, relocating it to a larger venue and even providing space for counter-protests. It turned out that was not enough.
“Despite those measures, the lecture was immediately disrupted and the speaker was entirely prevented from addressing the audience led by an individual using a bullhorn,” the university said.
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The incident prompted New York state Senator Fred Akshar (R) to cancel his own scheduled speech at the university on Tuesday, commenting in a statement that the campus “has no longer become suitable for civic engagement,” which he blamed on a “leftist mob mentality and brute force intimidation.”
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