Univ. of Wisc. Cancels Antiwar Forum Over ‘Security Concerns’

An Antiwar Forum was canceled at the last minute by the University of Wisconsin (Madison) over unspecified “security concerns.”

The event was expected to draw a large audience to hear Cindy Sheehan, Antiwar.com’s Angela Keaton, Ben Manski of the Liberty Tree Foundation, Christina Tobin of the Free and Equal Elections Foundation, and local activist and elected official Sean Scallon.

The practice of canceling or prohibiting events based on “security concerns” is not new, but hasn’t been used much recently. The U.S. Supreme Court has made clear, in its Forsyth County v. Nationalist Movement (505 U.S. 123, 1992) decision, that “Speech cannot be financially burdened, any more than it can be punished or banned, simply because it might offend a hostile mob.”

Organizers of the event plan to hold it in an area outside the student union.

Following is the press release of the UW Campus Antiwar Network:

UW Campus Antiwar Network: Antiwar panel scheduled for Monday at 7:00 at Memorial Union featuring activist Cindy Sheehan cancelled by union staff due to “security concerns”

4/25/2010

CONTACT: Steve Horn — (262)-705-5856, sahorn@wisc.edu

To Members of the Press:

An antiwar panel sponsored by the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Havens Center, Campus Antiwar Network, Middle East Interest Group, and the Wisconsin Union Directorate’s Society and Politics Committee and scheduled for Monday, April 26 at 7:00 PM in Memorial Union has been cancelled by the Union Building/Event Management Director, Roger Vogts, due to a last-minute expression of “security concerns” that would accompany antiwar activist Cindy Sheehan’s visit. Vogts said that he could not contact security over the weekend because, apparently, phones don’t work over the weekend.

On top of that, those organizing the event would have to foot the bill for the security, even though Sheehan never requested security to begin with, and even though no organizations involved with this event had enough money to foot the expensive bill this late in the game, either.

The U.S. Supreme Court has made clear, in its Forsyth County v. Nationalist Movement (505 U.S. 123, 1992) decision, that “Speech cannot be financially burdened, any more than it can be punished or banned, simply because it might offend a hostile mob” (emphasis mine). Since the Union’s Central Reservations presides over a viewpoint-neutral limited public forum at the Union and other facilities, the Union is necessarily bound by the same constitutional demands as the local government in Forsyth County. In other words, it is unconstitutional for any viewpoint-neutral limited public forum to deny any organization their free speech rights on the grounds that they are unable to provide for extra security costs related to the exercise of that free speech.

Interestingly, these same concerns were not expressed when Norman Finkelstein came to Madison on April 13 and spoke at UW, a man well-known for being a strong critic of Israel’s and a man barred from visiting Israel until 2018 because the country considers him a “security threat.” Not a peep was uttered about him being such a thing at UW.

The panel features across-the-political-spectrum activists who believe it will take massive electoral reform to engender a sustainable long-term antiwar movement in the United States:

* Christina Tobin: chair of the Free and Equal Elections Foundation (www.freeandequal.org), a nonpartisan, nonprofit, public policy and advocacy organization dedicated to protecting the rights of the politically marginalized and disenfranchised, particularly third party and independent voters and candidates. She is also the Libertarian candidate for California Sec. of State.
* Teresa Amato: served as national campaign manager and in-house counsel for Ralph Nader in his 2000 and 2004 presidential campaigns. She’s the author of Grand Illusion: The Myth of Voter Choice in a Two-Party Tyranny.
* Angela Keaton: development director for Antiwar.com, the Web’s leading source of antiwar news, views, and activities, and the producer of the Scott Horton Show for Antiwar Radio.
* Ben Manski: attorney and pro-democracy advocate, he serves as Executive Director for the Liberty Tree Foundation for the Democratic Revolution, a think-tank and organizing center he founded in 2004. He’s also a principal attorney at Manski Law and Communications, LLC, and an associate follow with the Institute for Policy Studies. In 2001-2002, he was active on the steering committee that formed the major U.S. peace organization, United for Peace and Justice.
* Sean Scallon: author, journalist, blogger, and elected official in Pepin, WI. He’s the author of Beating the Powers that Be: Independent Political Movements and the Parties of the Upper Midwest.

Despite this cancellation, the organizing committee of this event and the panel has decided that the event will still take place at the Union, only, it will not be held in a reserved room, but instead, in one of three places: a.) the front steps, b.) the Union Lobby, c,) Lakefront on Langdon in the Union.

Event attendees are set to meet at the front steps of the Union at 6:45 PM, and from there, the panel will either be held there, in the Union lobby, or in Lakefront on Langdon in the Union. At the time this press release was written, event organizers were still undecided as to whether they would bring a lawsuit on the grounds of a violation of the First Amendment against the Union.

For more information about the event, please visit the Facebook Event Page.

  • MoT

    My, how brave UWM is. Nothing like rolling over to set a good example.

  • richard vajs

    So true, America is old and dying. No longer a beautiful, young country full of confidence in itself, America has become a crabby, fearful, nasty old wretch. The kind that peeks out its windows and calls the cops when kids get too close to its lawn. How else would you categorize the TEA Party except as a bunch of daft old grouches? Or this Arizona law which, to me, is like some law that prohibits strangers from walking the streets of some gated community. Some humans grow old and get wisdom and expand in love, others become ugly and self centered. We are becoming the worst kind of old – petty and full of hate .

  • Cort Greene

    Sounds like the days when Donna Shalala and Dean of Students Paul Ginsberg helped destroy the Left at the campus in the late 1980's.

    This was un-called for, even though I don't agree with Cindy's new direstion like Code Pink of working with the right.

  • Cindy Sheehan

    I have always worked with anti-war Libertarians and groups.

    I have been doing it since my son was killed–there is no "new direction," for me.

    I just want the wars to end—I couldn't care less about the fake "left-right" bullshit.

    Cindy Sheehan

    • anti_republocrat

      Bravo, Cindy. I have jumped the gap between extreme "left" and "right" multiple times, from Vietnam protester & civil right supporter, to Libertarian candidate, then back to the "left," recognizing that corporations are by definition statist institutions. "Left" and "right" divisions between advocates of peace and liberty are deliberately encouraged by the elites. We have far more in common with each other than we do with the corrupt center.

    • Learning

      Thanks Cindy. Like many politically homeless Americans I team up with any one of principle who opposes the Leviathan.

    • I just want the wars to end—I couldn't care less about the fake "left-right" bullshit.

      Yes, indeed. This phony distinction is the Establishment's most effective tool to "divide and conquer." God bless you, Cindy, and take care.

  • Druthers

    Has AIPAC invested in the cheese business and threatened to out source the cows?

  • Observer

    UW has clear rules. An outside organization can have an event at a campus facility (Memorial Union in this case) if it's sponsored by a University Department, and if adequate security is arranged. That's true for frat parties, conservative speakers, liberal speakers, freshman mixers, everything. This event met neither of those requirements, despite the Union's giving the organizer ample opportunity to get a department to sponsor the event and communicate a good security plan. None of this was last-minute. I'm not an employee of the university, just someone with a little bit of background knowledge.

    • Ex-Badger

      The group is a UW-Madison registered student organization and thus does not need sponsorship by a UW department to hold an event at the Memorial Union. Also, if the Union ever asks for security arrangements for student org. events, it's highly unusual.

      On the other hand, this sort of imperious, disrespectful behavior is typical from Union staff.

      • Observer

        You're wrong. The student group can hold an event for other students, but it can't bring in an outside group without department sponsorship. Clearly this is an outside group.

        And it ALWAYS requires security for high-profile speaking engagements like this one, and for EVERY fraternity event or similar social function. Not unusual at all.

        The Union knew a week ago that proper sponsorship was not in place, and tried repeatedly to give the student group the opportunity to follow the rules and have the event.

        Turns out, in the end the student group got the sponsorship it needed, and the event is going ahead. All they had to do was follow the rules. And the University is going to pick up the tab for security, which I don't think it's ever done for any events with a conservative flavor.

  • Gera Rosy

    It was best to cancel the event as no one is secure from the police, the military, the CIA, Blackwater or the Mossad. And, of course, no place is secure from these psychopathic killers either.

    • And given that state universities are institutions of the very Establishment that would be the focus of the event's criticism, the pushback by UW is certainly par for the course.

  • DMinor7th

    Very sad. It would seem many (most?) American universities have ceased to be that and have instead become sort of like trade schools for amoral corporate zombies. Zombie trade schools. Like zombies, they're dead (to the ancient traditions of universities) but they continue to shuffle along, blinding lusting after brains. Oh, brains, brains! Give us more brains! So we can consume them to keep our miserable dead infrastructures shuffling along at the behest of the corporatist neo-feudalist scum who have just vampire-squidded the entire piggybank of the US population for the next 100 years.

    "Murderers.. thieves.. and lawyers! Hah! God's away on business." Tom Waits. I waits. We all waits. For the final shoe to drop.

  • Homer

    There is nothing progressive about Madison Wisconsin anymore.

  • Pingback: The People’s Blog for the Constitution » Univ. of Wisconsin cancels antiwar forum due to lack of security()

  • Tony Joseph

    The article does NOT mention that William Ayers, domestic anti-war terrorist whose organization was responsible for several bombings at university and government buildings was to be one of the speakers – and perhaps it was his presence that caused the cancelation? Interesting that his name is not mentioned?

  • Annoneemus 2342

    Why bother going to a University? The students are mostly apathetic. Many if not most with opinions are in favor or the wars. Many were sent there by their parents to hibernate during the recession. Many are afraid to voice controversial opinions. Seriously, why don't you try comedy clubs, or open mike nights, old age homes, or be a 'guest' bartender. What ever. I really see talking to University students as a waste of your time.

    I support the University of Wisconsin canceling. It was basically a business decision. And it was their decision to make.

    Was William Ayers, American elementary education theorist, invited? What for, to talk 60's nostalgia? Again, waste of time. BTW, I am a bit suspicious of this "American elementary education theorist" stuff.

    A white middle aged female Catholic whose son died in the Iraq war should stick to audiences that have most of those traits. That might sound like a non starter, but I think that is your best shot.

  • Annoneemus 2342

    Why bother going to a University? The students are mostly apathetic. Many if not most with opinions are in favor or the wars. Many were sent there by their parents to hibernate during the recession. Many are afraid to voice controversial opinions. Seriously, why don't you try comedy clubs, or open mike nights, old age homes, or be a 'guest' bartender. What ever. I really see talking to University students as a waste of your time.

    I support the University of Wisconsin canceling. It was basically a business decision. And it was their decision to make.

    Was William Ayers, American elementary education theorist, invited? What for, to talk 60's nostalgia? Again, waste of time. BTW, I am a bit suspicious of this "American elementary education theorist" stuff.

    A white middle aged female Catholic whose son died in the Iraq war should stick to audiences that have most of those traits. That might sound like a non starter, but I think that is your best shot.

  • Pingback: Why Are Things As They Are? » Blog Archive » Support Oakland’s 4/29 Strike! March on Mayday!()

  • Gaince

    Christian fiction, unlike different genres (aside from Thriller/Suspense, which dominates immediately's Finest Vendor Hardcover and Paperback lists) is constructing in sales and popularity. Are you just loopy about studying lots of holy books & literature? So as to enjoy the nice existence within the earth. Books may additionally confer with works of literature, or a important division of such a work. An extended e book crammed with quick pieces from Fast Firm and the weblog. bar-ca.com