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”
CONTACT: Steve Horn — (262)-705-5856, firstname.lastname@example.org
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.