The theme year for Free Expression at Cornell University has had an unintended and dangerous consequence. It has encouraged those who define free expression as free speech rather than policed speech. It has even encouraged MAGA hats to appear on campus.
Free speech is violence, intimidation, and harassment.
Free speech prevents the university from providing a community of belonging that is safe from the type of domestic terrorism that free speech causes.
Free speech promulgated by free speechers at colleges and universities must be addressed and policed by a partnership among Federal, State, Local, Tribal and Territorial law enforcement agencies.
Attorney General Merrick Garland, the chief law enforcement agent in the country, should use the full power of his office to protect the communities of belonging in colleges and universities across this country in the same way he protected the school board members of public schools from the domestic terrorism of parents, and provided the school board members with safe spaces.
The Constitutional protection of free speech does not extend to the efforts of free speechers that cause harm.
To address the rising threat of free speech in 2023, Attorney General Merrick Garland must update the October 4, 2021 memo in which he wrote:
In recent months, there has been a disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff who participate in the vital work of running our nation’s public schools. While spirited debate about policy matters is protected under our Constitution, that protection does not extend to threats of violence or efforts to intimidate individuals based on their views.
Threats against public servants are not only illegal, they run counter to our nation’s core values. Those who dedicate their time and energy to ensuring that our children receive a proper education in a safe environment deserve to be able to do their work without fear for their safety.
The Department takes these incidents seriously and is committed to using its authority and resources to discourage these threats, identify them when they occur, and prosecute them when appropriate. In the coming days, the Department will announce a series of measures designed to address the rise in criminal conduct directed toward school personnel.
Coordination and partnership with local law enforcement is critical to implementing these measures for the benefit of our nation’s nearly 14,000 public school districts. To this end, I am directing the Federal Bureau of Investigation, working with each United States Attorney, to convene meetings with federal, state, local, Tribal, and territorial leaders in each federal judicial district within 30 days of the issuance of this memorandum. These meetings will facilitate the discussion of strategies for addressing threats against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff, and will open dedicated lines of communication for threat reporting, assessment, and response.
The Department is steadfast in its commitment to protect all people in the United States from violence, threats of violence, and other forms of intimidation arid harassment.
As a first step, we implore the Attorney General to direct the FBI to remove, from the Cornell University campus, the two MAGA hats from the Fashioning the Bounds of Free Speech exhibit because these hats symbolize violence, intimidation, and harassment.