Free speech forum causes controversy

Local News

UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS (WCIA) — The issue of free speech stirred some controversy at the UI as the topic was addressed at a forum Thursday night. 

WCIA’s capitol bureau chief, Mark Maxwell, moderated the event that featured acclaimed lawyer and civil libertarian Alan Dershowitz. 

The event was intended to be a way to challenge viewpoints and express free speech through a constructive discussion. Along with that came people who disagreed with Dershowitz’s political views. 

Dershowitz is a Harvard law professor, he represented O.J. Simpson and has spoken with many presidents and even trained them in law school. He’s a big proponent of actively promoting free speech. 

The hot button issue of the night focused on the conflict between Israel and Palestine, specifically the boycott divestment sanctions movement. It claims to end international support of Israel’s oppression of Palestine to promote freedom, justice and equality.

But Dershowitz disagreed with the cause completely saying, “Those guys think they’re going to bring back peace and they’re just dead dead wrong. I support free speech, I support their right to tell their lies, and I support my right to call them lies. But I don’t support their right to use the kind of economic discrimination that the Nazis used against the Jews in the 1930’s when they boycotted Jewish stores.” 

On the other hand, people showed up outside the event to express why they disagree with some of what Dershowitz has said and done. 

One UI graduate student says, “He’s speaking in support of free speech on campus, but as our flyer shows, he supports many laws and policy positions that are actually very much against free speech. People are under the false impression that he speaks for all Jews and he doesn’t.” 

Students, professors and many others showed up before the event to shout their opinions and express their own free speech. 

As the conversation continued through the night, Dershowitz also discussed how free speech is holding up in a world so divided online and in people’s opinions regarding politics. 

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