Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
December 3, 2022

Hey Occupy, Rove deserves the first amendment, too

By BO TAO | November 17, 2011

I, like many of my liberal friends, do not agree with the actions of Karl Rove, this week's MSE speaker, during the Bush presidency. I will even contend that some of his actions would warrant arrest and incarceration should he be proven guilty in a court of law. The fact that some people decided to heckle and protest Rove's speech, however, is simply reprehensible and disruptive. I will attempt to explain why in this situation, the protesters, who were from Occupy Baltimore, were in the wrong.

Rove was an invited speaker and deserves the same respect any person should have. Above all, he is entitled to the same First Amendment clause of free speech as any other person. Some of the protestors would beg to differ. They would rather shout him down and force him from the podium. Others have claimed that they were exercising their own free speech by heckling. The protestors are simply wrong if they think they can do whatever they want at a public forum. Since Mr. Rove was the invited speaker, he was given the opportunity to speak. By shouting at him, the protestors were simply preventing Mr. Rove from exercising his first amendment rights.

In addition, many protestors said that they were entitled to free speech since this was a public forum. Yes, this presentation was open to the public, but not on public property. Unlike public property, in which people can demonstrate at their own will, private property has a different set of rules. In essence, property rights trump free speech. Private universities, such as Hopkins, have special rules when it comes to engaging in on-campus protests. I would have no problem if the protestors demonstrated on the Quads or in front of Shriver. However, their free speech rights end when it comes to the closed doors of Shriver, where people are expected to sit through Mr. Rove's speech and ask questions afterwards. If the protestors contacted Hopkins administration about the rules, I'm sure they would have received a reply with what they can and cannot do.

The student body and the protestors should have let Mr. Rove finish his speech. Then during the Q+A session, they could have asked him any question and waited for the response. I am glad that the majority of Hopkins students decided to be civil. I applaud those students who told the protestors to shut up or get out. This event was a Hopkins event. We went to it to listen to the speaker, not to hear a bunch of rabble. I would encourage the MSE Symposium to make security stricter in the future, such as checking J-cards, to ensure that there would not be a situation where Rove was harmed in any way.

I had been sympathetic with the Occupy movement since its formation. However, after seeing firsthand what happened, I cannot believe in the hypocrisy of these protestors. Most importantly, their actions discredited those students who actually had challenging questions for Mr. Rove. If Occupy wants to succeed, it must respect the rule of law and not let mob rule be its guiding force. What Occupy displayed at the event is truly shameful.

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