Sessions says DOJ will increase efforts to protect free speech on campuses

Jeff Sessions

While addressing a group of students at Georgetown Law School in Washington DC on Tuesday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the Department of Justice would protect the First Amendment rights of college students across the country.

"In this great land", Sessions also said, "the government does not get to tell you what to think or what to say".

Some Georgetown community members "took a knee" in nod to National Football League players' protests through the weekend following President Donald Trump's admonition of athletes exercising their free speech rights. But the freedom of every individual player is paramount under the Constitution, it's protected, and we have to protect it. He then added, "it's not a contradiction".

"Protesters are now routinely shutting down speeches and debates across the country in an effort to stop the forces that insufficiently conform to their views", Sessions said.

'But it is transforming into an echo chamber of political correctness and homogeneous thought, a shelter for fragile egos'.

"We, the disinvited, find it extraordinarily hypocritical that AG Sessions would lecture future attorneys about the importance of free speech on campus while actively excluding the wider student body", the statement read.

Sessions, who heads the Justice Department that is prosecuting a woman for laughing at him during a congressional hearing, slammed "ridiculous" college students Wednesday for "suffocating" free speech on their campuses.

Outside of the hall where the event was held, roughly 100 students and faculty members protested Sessions' presence on campus.

The juxtaposition between Sessions' civic-minded calls for tolerance and the president's use of his bully pulpit to hurl insults at peaceful protesters was not lost on the students protesting outside Sessions' speech.

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Battles over what kind of speech should be permitted on college campuses have been going on for years, but they've reached a feverish pitch in recent months as white nationalists and anti-fascist protesters fought in the streets. But in at least one row, students sat silently in black with duct tape over their mouths.

Sessions said Trump was "exactly right" to speak out against the disrespect towards the anthem.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks during a vigil ceremony marking the September 11 terrorist attacks, at the Department of Justice.

"Today we stand together united in the name of free speech at Georgetown", one of the speakers at the protest said.

In a statement released ahead of Sessions' appearance, faculty members of Georgetown Law School drew a clear distinction between their opposition to Sessions' remarks, and their support of his right to make them. "A national re-commitment to free speech on campus is long overdue", he said, "and action to ensure First Amendment rights is overdue".

"I do", Sessions responded.

Meanwhile, hundreds of students and dozens of law professors protested the speech as well-standing outside the building with signs and chanting through bullhorns as Sessions spoke. And Barnett and his organization, of course, are perfectly within their rights to designate a given event as invitation-only or otherwise limit access, particularly where, as here, demand is likely to quickly outpace supply. The case was originally filed by students against Georgia Gwinnett College, claiming that the institution had limited expression with its free-speech-zone policy.

"We pay a ton of tuition", she said.

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