by Peter Grady –
A judge has stated that Muslim students who allegedly harassed Jewish students and even assaulted a woman with a cart was engaging in protected political speech.
Jessica Felber claimed in a lawsuit against the University of Berkeley that a leader of a pro-Palestinian group rammed her with a shopping cart as she staged a counter-protest to the anti-Israel “Apartheid Week” conducted by the Muslim Student Association and Students for Justice in Palestine in 2010.
Felber and another Jewish student claimed the University did not do enough to prevent the harassment which included the Muslim group conducting checkpoints around the campus. Students were asked if they were Jewish while passing the checkpoints.
On Thursday U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg said the harassment, even if true, constituted protected political speech and dismissed the case against the university.
Seeborg said the university did not have any obligation to intervene in any dispute where a private individual on campus was allegedly interfering with another’s constitutional rights. He instead appeared to indicate that the incident was an outcome of Felber’s counter protest.
“The incident in which Felber was assaulted with a shopping cart, for example, did not occur in the context of her educational pursuit,” Seeborg wrote. “Rather, that event occurred when she, as one person attempting to exercise free speech rights in a public forum, was allegedly attacked by another person who likewise was participating in a public protest in a public forum.”
Seeborg also stated in dismissing the case, that many of the alleged incidents of harassment happened before plaintiffs were enrolled at the university and that the university has worked to mediate conflicts between opposing groups.
Robert Spencer, founder of Jihad Watch, said the judge’s decision basically asserts Muslims assaulting Jewish students is now protected speech.
“This is an outrageous decision. The Muslim students were trying to silence the freedom of speech of the Jewish students. The judge says this is a ruling in favor of free speech, but actually the freedom of speech was being infringed and the judge is saying that is ok to protect the freedom of speech of the Muslim students. Don’t the Jewish students have freedom of speech as well?”