Free Speech vs. Orange Jackets
- Derek Medley
Accoutered in conspicuous orange jackets, Massachusetts state police officers were deliberating their intentions while filming and pointing at the three of us as we sat quietly among the audience at this year’s Suffolk University commencement ceremony, which we were attending in order to protest the “Honorable” Governor/bigot Mitt Romney who would be speaking in a moment.
After having been allowed in carrying Socialist Worker placards reading “Separate is not equal” and “gay marriage is a civil right,” the same orange-clad cops had forced us to remove them from the grounds of Boston’s Fleet Center Pavilion. This they did without offering any explanation whatever. As we sat in defiant silence while the national anthem was sung, an older man behind us urged us to stand. Receiving no response he proceeded to inform us that we were “ignorant, rude…and stupid.” I turned and asked, “Are we ignorant and rude?” This prompted a similarly aged woman to offer a most sophisticated argument - “shut up!”
When I heard a torrent of senseless encomium emerge through the amplifiers I knew that Romney, who has been quoted in the Boston Globe as saying that homosexuality is “perverse” and “reprehensible,” (among other achievements) was being introduced to the graduates of a Massachusetts University that takes pains to pride itself for its respectable embrace of diversity. When he stepped to the podium amidst waves of applause, the three of us did our best to make our booing heard. A handful of graduates rose and turned their backs on him, and we followed their example.
This act incurred upon us a not unusual dose of heckling from the more mature members of the audience. At this point we were told by some of the organizers that we should move to the aisle so that we would not be obstructing people from a clear view of right wing bigotry in motion. We kindly, and unnecessarily obliged, and it was at this point that we met again with the orange jackets. Several cops grabbed us by the arms and forcefully dragged us from the crowd. They didn't heed our reasonable requests to walk out without their violent assistance and remained silent, or abusive, when pressed to identify themselves. Interestingly, the police themselves were underpaid for this injustice because the Governor refuses to give them contracts.
Two of us were forced out of the privately owned area, which includes a military facility, and one remained inside giving an interview with a reporter from the Boston Globe. Amidst repetitive threats of arrest my friend and I attempted to retrieve the placards we had carefully stashed in a crevice after the insistence of the police that we could not bring them onto the grounds. We were informed that these signs were “trash” and were “thrown away” by the police, apparently forced to take up the responsibilities of the garbage collectors, probably at the behest of the Governor without pay increase. When we approached the nearest garbage can a cop exclaimed, “If you look in there I will arrest you. I will arrest you. I will arrest you. I won’t repeat myself.” Intimidated by this devastating logic, the two of us retreated to the nearest public property to await our friend.
The next day’s edition of the Globe contained an image of three graduates with their backs to a distant and blurred Romney on the front page of the City and Region section, along with an article headlined, “Governor is booed at Suffolk commencement.” The author, David Abel, focused on the event’s relevance as an issue of free speech; portraying the protestors as opposed to the “bias” of Romney, and his supporters criticizing us for our reluctance to permit “free speech” to those with opinions different from ours. Frankly, this portrayal does not uncover the significance of the issues involved.
Mitt Romney’s career is one that concocts and supports policies that target the lowers classes, discriminate against minorities such as blacks and homosexuals and otherwise promulgate hatred and bigotry. After being invited, without the consent of the students, by the President of Suffolk University to speak at this ceremony that would clearly have blacks and homosexuals among the audience, Mitt Romney perpetuated his commitment to oppression by doing nothing to prevent the three civilian demonstrators from being forcefully removed, by armed officers of the law from the premises of an event, the rules of which we were following according to the requests of the organizers. Not to mention the flagrant purloining of our placards.
The ultimate irony lies in the declarations of the orange jackets, who all the while that they were rudely shoving and grabbing us, found time to mention several times that they “don’t like the Governor either.”
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Derek Jay Medley, 22 years old, can be reached here: firstname.lastname@example.org