ACLU College Freedom Tour stimulates political awareness among UM students
Hustler’s Larry Flynt featured guest speaker
Students got a taste of political activism this week when the American Civil Liberties Union [ACLU] kicked off its first-ever College Freedom Tour on campus.
Designed as a political forum to educate students, the featured guest speaker was civil rights and liberties activist Larry Flynt, president of Hustler magazine.
Other guests included students and leaders involved with ACLU as well as performers Dead Prez and DJ Kuttin Kandy. According to organizers, all of the artists and speakers involved were political people who, at one time or another, had been censored for exerting the right of free speech.
“They are able to bring a special perspective to the forum,” Rosa Clemente, National Youth Communications Coordinator of ACLU, said.
“We are hoping that students had fun and enjoyed tonight’s events, but we also want them to become aware of our mission, the importance of protecting civil liberties,” Alessandra Soler Meetze, Communications Director of ACLU, FL, said.
ACLU is a national organization dedicated to protecting the human rights dictated in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The speakers concentrated on the First Amendment right of freedom of speech, and how that right has been affected since the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
“Not in our name will you wage a war against the Bill of Rights,” Anthony Romero, executive director of the ACLU, said, referring to the Patriot Act, passed in October 2001.
According to Rachel Olander, a student speaker from the University of Central Florida, the Patriot Act reinstated CIA powers to spy, monitor actions and confiscate property in the name of fighting terrorism.
Currently, under the provisions of the Patriot Act, hundreds of immigrants are being held in prison without being formally charged with a crime and without access to attorneys.
“The passing of the Patriot Act was my inspiration to get involved,” Olander said. “I just couldn’t sit back and be angry anymore.”
Larry Flynt openly condemned the actions of the Bush administration post-9/11, the conservative Supreme Court and many of John Ashcroft’s policies.
“What did we do after 9/11? We got right in the mud with the people who did it to us,” Flynt said.
Flynt also argued for the rights protected by the First Amendment.
“If you are not going to offend anyone, you don’t need the protection of the First Amendment,” he said.
Flynt then further said that no one has the right to suppress something simply because it is offensive to someone else.
Students in the audience got involved when they had the opportunity to ask questions of the speakers.
One student wanted to know how he could voice his opposition to the Patriot Act.
Jeanne Baker, President of ACLU, FL, advised writing letters to Congress representatives and passing resolutions within the University to display the feelings of the students.
“The ACLU is very active in Miami and is working on [a resolution] in Miami-Dade right now,” Baker said. “It is a very effective way to express ourselves.”
The College Freedom Tour will visit a total of eight campuses around the nation, including University of Maryland, Harvard University and University of Washington in Seattle.
“I was pretty surprised we actually had something like this on campus,” Chris Martinez, sophomore, said. “I hope we have more events like these in the future.”
UM will soon be hosting various politically themed events, including the “Get Out the Vote” campaign. Also, UM is a contender site for the 2004 presidential debates.
For more information on the ACLU College Freedom Tour, contact Anthony Romero at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.aclufreedomtour.org.
Megha Garg can be reached at email@example.com.