The independently funded Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression cites the administration of Cypress College on its 18th annual list of the "best" Muzzlers of Free Speech.
Officials at the northern Orange County community college campus land at No. 6 "for calling police to arrest members of the pro-life group 'Survivor' claiming that they were creating a disturbance by passing out literature and discussing their pro-life views with students. The group was told they had to confine their activities to an area near a construction site and away from all student traffic."
A story on the incident posted March 5, 2008, on the Cypress Chronicle student newspaper's online site identifies the group as "Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust" as it reports two male and three female activists were cited by Cypress police for trespassing and released after waiting in the back of patrol cars in handcuffs for about a half hour before being allowed to leave.
"We have a designated free-speech area and we have asked them to be in the free-speech zone," Cypress College President Michael Kassler told the Chronicle, adding that the college has a right to regulate where the free-speech zones are. Kassler was among three different college officials who recited campus free-speech policies to the activists before police were called, Mark Posner, the public information officer at Cypress, told the Chronicle.
But Survivors director Kortney Blythe maintained the area was not sufficient to promote their cause. "It's more like a confining pen than a free-speech zone," Blythe told the student newspaper.
That's a point the Jefferson Center picked up on in an accompanying statement about the Cypress College recognition: "Wishing to share with fellow students their disdain for the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade (abortion rights) ruling, the Survivors were told they could speak only in a 'free speech zone' so remote from the campus center that their message would have had little impact and reached few listeners."
The activists were specifically charged with disturbing the piece, "although there appears to have been no disorder beyond the controversial message and the administration's response, and no evidence that classes or other vital functions were disrupted," notes the center, adding the prosecution sought and obtained dismissal of the charges, and the judge ordered any arrest notations be removed from the students' records.
A civil suit filed by several protesters against the college and Cypress police is pending.
Founded in 1989 by former University of Virginia president Robert M. O'Neil, the organization has bestowed Jefferson Muzzles to people and institutions all over the political map. They include: George H.W. Bush, Stanford University, CBS News, Rudy Giuliani, Bill Clinton, Janet Reno, Donald Rumsfeld, John Ashcroft, the 106th and 107th U.S. Congress, the FCC, NASCAR, FEMA and--like father, like son--George W. Bush.
This year's recipients, in order, are:
1) The Democratic and Republican parties for "their complete indifference to First Amendment rights as demonstrated by their deafening silence concerning security measures employed at their respective national conventions."
2) Command Authority of Camp Lejeune Marine Base (North Carolina), which forced Jesse Nieto, a veteran and employee on the base, to remove from his vehicle decals linking Islam to terrorism.
3) Berrien County, Mich., Judge Dennis Wiley, who revoked the probation of a man who wrote an editorial criticizing and saying God would punish the judge who presided over the man's trial for voter fraud.
4) Virginia Circuit Judge Westbrook J. Parker, who ordered 40 people to pay $80,000 in legal fees after they unsuccessfully petitioned for the removal of four county supervisors who had been under criminal investigation.
5) The administrations of Texas' Lone Star College (for refusing to allow the Young Conservatives of Texas to distribute a tongue-in-cheek flier featuring "Top Ten Gun Safety Tips") and Tarrant County College (for banning students from wearing empty gun holsters as part of a protest against laws forbidding concealed weapon license holders from carrying guns on college campuses).
6) The administration of Cypress College for having a pro-life group arrested, claiming they created a disturbance by passing out literature to students.
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7) The administration of Yuba Community College (Yuba City, CA), for threatening to arrest and expel a student who wanted to express his Christian message through tracts, a sign and conversation on campus.
8) The Perry Meridian Township School Board (Indiana), which suspended a teacher who assigned "The Freedom Writers Diary" to her 11th-grade English class.
9) The administration of the Academy for Arts, Science & Technology (South Carolina), for preventing the distribution of the school newspaper because of an editorial supporting same-sex marriage.
10) The administrations of Nebraska's Millard South High School (for suspending 23 students wearing T-shirts honoring a classmate slain in a reported gang-related incident) and Colorado's Frontier Elementary School (for suspending an 11-year-old for wearing a T-shirt claiming "Obama -- A Terrorist's Best Friend").