Ken Klukowski, senior legal editor for Breitbart News Network, was met with protest from several law students in the UNC chapter of the National Lawyers Guild while giving a lecture at the UNC School of Law on Tuesday.
The students attended the lecture and held up signs condemning Breitbart during Klukowski’s lecture. Some signs read “Breitbart = hate news,” “Breitbart anti-Semitism is not welcome” and “Breitbart is the 21st century ‘Der Stürmer,’” equating the publication to a former Nazi tabloid.
Klukowski, who is also general counsel of the American Civil Rights Union and senior counsel and director of strategic affairs at First Liberty Institute, was invited to the school by the Federalist Society at UNC. Klukowski’s lecture focused on the impact of Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation as a justice on the U.S. Supreme Court and was followed by a statement from Professor Andrew Hessick, the associate dean for strategy at the UNC School of Law.
“I believe, for the first time in decades, you have a majority on the U.S. Supreme Court that, at least, publicly professes that it regards itself as bound by the text of federal law and by the original public meaning of the Constitution that the court is interpreting in its decisions,” Kluskowski said.
Klukowski said this majority will have the potential to “move the direction of the law on a different trajectory,” and in his lecture, he spoke specifically about some past cases and their relation to the U.S.Constitution.
Audience member Jaelyn Miller, president of the UNC chapter of the NLG and student in the Juris Doctorate program in the School of Law, said she thought Klukowski was not a welcome speaker to the UNC School of Law for many students.
Miller, the organizer of the protest, said she was alarmed by the Federalist Society’s invitation for Klukowski to speak, as the NLG considers Breitbart an unreputable, alt-right news source that spreads propaganda. She said she thinks nothing in Klukowski’s lecture was particularly special and could have instead been covered by somebody “less problematic.”
“(Breitbart) is very homophobic, xenophobic, racist, anti-Semitic and misogynistic. The list goes on and on,” Miller said. “I think (the protest) got the message across that he is not welcome here at this law school or at this university at large.”
Miller said she believed only a fraction of the audience members were there to hear Klukowski speak while most were there to protest.
When asked about the protesting, Klukowski said an exchange of ideas is “part of the lifeblood of democracy.”
“With rights comes responsibility, and with that, we all need to learn how to engage with our First Amendment rights in a way that shows respect for other people to appreciate the dignity and the worth of every human being and to learn to disagree without being disagreeable,” Klukowski said.
In a statement released by the executive board of the UNC National Lawyers Guild following the incident, the organization wrote a summary of why it opposed Klukowski's lecture, citing recent terror events as reactions to movements supported Breitbart and its “fear-mongering.”
The statement referred to the recent mailing of pipe bombs to Democratic politicians and other figures, the murder of two African-American people in Kentucky and the killing of 11 Jewish worshippers in Pennsylvania.
“It’s shameful and disgusting that the Federalist Society invited him and that members of the Federalist Society stood by him, even after the attacks from last week and the disappointment expressed from their fellow law students,” Miller said.
The NLG statement said the Federalist Society refused to uninvite Klukowski. The organization said the presence of police officers sent to the UNC School of Law for the event signaled that the University recognized that speakers associated with Breitbart are dangerous. NLG also wrote that police presence was the University's way of showing its stance that student protests should be policed.
“We believe that hate has no place on our campus, and that we are long past the point of entertaining dangerous and hateful rhetoric under the guise of civility,” the NLG statement said.
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