The University of California, Irvine Black Student Union is demanding a ban on the UC Irvine Police Department. The protest featured protesters with signs reading “Blue Lives Don’t Matter” and “F–k the Police.” It was an interesting protest after a professor at the University of Virginia was forced into a leave of absence after calling Black Lives Matter as racist organization akin to the KKK. In this case, however, equally caustic remarks against the police were not viewed as matters for discipline. I have favored free speech protections in all of these circumstances. My concern is that there is a double standard being applied based on the content of such speech.
The protest was triggered by the appearance of LAPD Chief Charlie Beck as part of UC Irvine’s “New Narratives” forum. Beck wanted to discuss police brutality and race in a program billed as an effort to “bring together leading scholars and innovative practitioners to define the problem, identify challenges, and discuss possible solutions to [police brutality.]” It would seem a rather odd choice for a BLM protest but protesters appeared with blood-spattered signs denouncing all police and chanting “Rise up, resist, put those killer cops in jail, the whole damn system is guilty as hell.”
A petition is circulating to ban the campus police department as well as a demand that LAPD Chief Beck be fired for the “police brutality” carried out by this department. Event organizers actually sold official Black Student Union “Fuck the Police” shirts and sweatshirts to wear to the protest.
There is no indication what would be done with criminal conduct in the absence of any campus police at Irvine. However, the more pressing question is whether the university would have responded in the same way if faculty or students protested that “Black Lives Do Not Matter” or the inverse of the profane posters used at the event. I would protect all such speech, but universities and colleges have imposed conflicting standards in these controversies.
What do you think?