In a Senate hearing that took place this week, Senator Diane Feinstein defended the right of public universities to cancel controversial speaking events when they may lead to violence on campus.
“The fact of the matter is that there are certain occasions on which individuals assemble not to act peaceably, but to act as destructively as they possibly can,” Feinstein stated. “When you have a set group of people that come to create a disturbance, some of them even wearing masks or wearing certain clothing, what do you do?” Feinstein added. “I do believe that the university has a right to protect its students from demonstrations once they become acts of violence.”
UCLA Law Professor Eugene Volokh pushed back hard against Senator Feinstein, arguing that the First Amendment protects speech against the possibility of a heckler’s veto, which is the suppression of speech by a government out of concern of a violent reaction by protesters.