At first glance, the 150 people gathered just outside Northeastern University on March 18 seemed to be staging a typical rally criticizing Israeli policies—an increasingly common sight on left-leaning American campuses. But upon closer inspection, the mix of NEU students and local Boston activists were calling for another thing to be freed: their speech.
The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), the Maryland and D.C. chapters of the National Lawyers Guild, and the Defending Dissent Foundation sent Maryland Senators and Delegates a letter on March 3, 2014 urging them to oppose pending legislation that would reduce state funding to colleges and universities that fund membership and activities in organizations supporting boycotts of certain countries, including Israel. According to the legislation’s supporters, Senate Bill 647 and House Bill 998 were drafted in response to the American Studies Association’s recent resolution to boycott Israeli academic institutions.
“The First Amendment still lives in Wisconsin’s Capitol today,” declares Patricia Hammel, the vice chair of the Madison chapter of the National Lawyers Guild. Hammel, an attorney for one of the singers arrested during Gov. Scott Walker’s attempt to silence dissent in the state Capitol last year, was celebrating a major victory in the long legal struggle to restore respect for the Constitution in Walker’s Wisconsin.
Congressman Roskam, the Chief Deputy Whip and co-chair of the House Republican Israel Caucus, and Democratic Rep. from Illinois Dan Lipinski have recently introduced the so called "Protect Academic Freedom Act" that would deny federal funding to colleges and universities that participate in a boycott of Israeli academic institutions or scholars.
February 12, 2014, New York - The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) and the Council on American-Islamic Relations-USA (CAIR-USA) sent members of the House of Representatives Education and the Workforce Committee a letter urging them to oppose legislation that would deny federal funding to colleges and universities that participate in a boycott of Israeli academic institutions or scholars. According to the legislation’s sponsors, H.R. 4009 was drafted in response to the American Studies Association’s recent resolution to boycott Israeli academic institutions.
One clear example of the targeting of animal activists is the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) which was passed by Congress and signed into law in 2006. The AETA amended and expanded the Animal Enterprise Protection Act (AEPA). The AETA makes “damaging or interfering with the operations of an animal enterprise” or “intentionally plac[ing] a person in fear of death or serious bodily injury” federal crimes of terrorism.
Dear Ms. Gould:
The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) applauds you and the Brooklyn College Political Science Department for your support of an open discussion of the growing campus movement for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel. Your stand is especially important in light of the recent attempts to intimidate you and the department into canceling the event. Efforts to pressure the Brooklyn College administration to cancel the panel run contrary to the values enshrined in the First Amendment and they are an affront to the principles of academic freedom.
Today a judge dismissed the charges against more than 90 demonstrators arrested last October when Occupy Chicago made two attempts to set up an encampment in Grant Park. More than 300 protesters were arrested in the park last year and charged with violating city park curfew. Most opted to for a community service deal with the city, but the National Lawyers Guild filed suit on behalf of 92 demonstrators to dismiss the charges on grounds that they were unconstitutional.
"We are under the impression that the whole country is a free speech zone," said Michael Zytkow, a 26-year-old organizer for Occupy Charlotte. "We were bothered by the idea of any government-designated playground."
Carol Sobel, a lawyer from Santa Monica, California, who co-chairs the Mass Defense Committee of the National Lawyers Guild, asked, "Who'd want to use it? You're talking to yourself."
Her group works to push back against what it views as government attempts to stifle dissent.