Two conservative activists were mobbed and harassed Monday on Ohio University’s Athens campus while multiple police officers watched.
Kaitlin Bennett, who rose to fame as the Kent State “gun-girl,” and radio host Joel Patrick went to campus to film a “man-on-the-street” video for President’s Day. But various videos from their time on campus show students repeatedly surrounding Bennett, calling her names, and throwing items at her, including hot coffee.
The @oupolice lied and said that no violence happened and that there were just "allegations that some unknown person splashed water." Students at @ohiou were throwing things at me all day, dumped hot coffee on me, & vandalized @Joelpatrick1776's truck right in front of the cops. pic.twitter.com/XnMUqFWtrH
— Kaitlin Bennett (@KaitMarieox) February 18, 2020
Others screamed in her face, shouted “f—k you,” and told her to leave campus. When she tried, a mob of students surrounded Patrick’s truck and threw unknown liquids at the passengers inside. The video of the incident shows at least two campus police officers standing in the crowd of students and watching the events unfold.
The Ohio University Police Department released a statement later in the day claiming that the “incident did not rise to the level of a riot.”
“Early this afternoon an activist appeared unexpectedly on the Ohio University campus in Athens and engaged in Constitutionally protected activity. She drew a large crowd of people, many with opposing viewpoints, who also chose to exercise their First Amendment rights,” said the statement.
The police department claimed that it received “no prior notice of the activist’s plans,” which “deprived the department of the ability to plan staffing levels.”
“As a result, the officers on duty had to prioritize their response to the events as they unfolded, rightly putting everyone’s personal safety ahead of all other concerns,” the statement concluded.
— OhioUniversityPolice (@oupolice) February 17, 2020
Bennett accused the department of lying in its statement, since the protesters “threw projectiles and poured hot coffee on us,” she said.
“There’s video of your officers witnessing Joel Patrick’s truck being vandalized. But yeah, just ‘some unknown person in the crowd splashed water.’ I can’t wait until Donald Trump takes away your school’s funding,” she wrote on Twitter.
They threw projectiles and poured hot coffee on us, and there's video of your officers witnessing @Joelpatrick1776's truck being vandalized. But yeah, just "some unknown person in the crowd splashed water." I can't wait until @realDonaldTrump takes away your school's funding. https://t.co/b0jiVYW5wy
— Kaitlin Bennett (@KaitMarieox) February 17, 2020
OU students came out to hurt feelings today 😭😂😂 bye gun girl pic.twitter.com/SoJxnE7w9w
— Talon (@DrummerTalon) February 17, 2020
Bennett, a graduate of Kent State University, garnered popularity as a gun-rights activist while she was a student and organized “open carry walks” on her campus. She now works as the grassroots director for Liberty Hangout and contributes to the controversial InfoWars website run by Alex Jones.
As a result of her fame, Bennett claims she has been “contacted by the FBI four times for credible threats” against her life.
“I’ve received millions of death threats the last two years. I’ve been assaulted numerous times and rioted against twice. But nothing the left does will make me go away. Their hatred makes me stronger,” she wrote on Twitter.
I've been contacted by the FBI 4 times for credible threats against my life. I've received millions of death threats the last two years. I've been assaulted numerous times and rioted against twice. But nothing the left does will make me go away. Their hatred makes me stronger.
— Kaitlin Bennett (@KaitMarieox) February 18, 2020
Bennett said she plans to return to Ohio University and will bring an “army of gun owners” with her for an “open carry walk through campus.”
“You can’t keep us away and you can’t keep us silent. Just like Donald Trump, we will always win,” she said.
Free speech on campus
Ohio University issued a new policy in July 2018 expressing its “commitment to free expression.”
“We affirm the value of free expression, but applying these broad values to our campuses is complex,” states the policy. “Most agree that mere inconvenience should be tolerated while genuine disruption should not, but defining the difference between the two in some scenarios can be difficult.”
In attempting to differentiate between “inconvenience” and “disruption,” the policy explains that “those who enforce these policies and those who seek to comply with them must use reasonable judgment and common sense, informed by the values of our institution, to apply a general definition to the specifics of the moment.”
Categories of “unprotected speech” include “genuine harassment and threats, falsely defamatory statements about a specific person, and incitement,” says the policy.
The Ohio Star reached out to the Ohio University Police Department for information on its policies for responding to situations like Monday’s incident, but did not receive a response.
President Donald Trump has addressed the free speech rights of students on college campuses in various speeches and executive orders, including an executive order issued in March 2019 that ties federal funding to a school’s promotion of “free inquiry.”
“My Administration seeks to promote free and open debate on college and university campuses. Free inquiry is an essential feature of our Nation’s democracy, and it promotes learning, scientific discovery, and economic prosperity,” states the executive order. “We must encourage institutions to appropriately account for this bedrock principle in their administration of student life and to avoid creating environments that stifle competing perspectives, thereby potentially impeding beneficial research and undermining learning.”
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