NY State assemblyman calls to protect free speech at Binghamton University

Leftist students verbally abused and ransacked tables belong to conservative students

Binghamton University's downtown campus in New York. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Binghamton University's downtown campus in New York.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
A New York State assemblyman has slammed Binghamton University for the way it has handled a group of leftist students who verbally abused and ransacked tables belonging to the campus College Republicans group.
The conservative students were handing out flyers for an upcoming talk by well-known economist Dr. Arthur Laffer when the incident occurred on Thursday.
During the spat, the nearly 200 leftist students began yelling slurs, swearing at the conservative students and at one point, even brought up the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. One student was recorded as saying, “The rockets are hitting Israel every day, really? Good for them, let’s keep hitting Israel until they give their [the Palestinians] land back.”
In the letter, New York State assemblyman Douglas Smith, a Republican, wrote that “this video shows nearly 200 students harassing, cursing, yelling, and physically destroying tables and displays put together by the College Republicans to promote this prestigious speaker and the event.”
“During the video, students are threatened and physically intimidated for expressing their political views, including their support for the nation of Israel,” he wrote.
Mentioned in the letter was also the way in which students reacted “when State University Police arrived to intervene.
“[The] angry mob of students begin chanting, ‘No justice. No peace. No racist police.’ They then proceed to get into the police officer’s face while screaming about how they believe it is within their first amendment rights to be violent, disruptive, and destructive of the property of others,” he recalled.
Smith, who is the Ranking Minority Member of the Assembly’s Committee on Higher Education, stressed that he would like to know “what steps the college will be taking to promote inclusion and diversity on campus; this includes diversity of political opinion.”
He added that “the halls of academia should be a place for the free exchange of ideas.”
“I am hopeful that you will actively work to ensure that State University of New York at Binghamton students are able to peacefully exercise their first amendment rights on campus without fear of physical violence in the future,” he concluded.
Following a response from the university to the letter, Smith said that he was “very disappointed” that the university seemed “to excuse their students’ bad behavior and blame the Binghamton College Republicans for ‘triggering’ their students with a Second Amendment poster.”
He warned that “if the university fails to identify and take proper disciplinary action against these students, who had a temper tantrum and physically shut down their peers’ ability to peacefully exercise their First Amendment Rights, they will be condoning violence against their own students.”
Smith stressed that there was no excuse for this behavior.
Tommy Gagliano, a Binghamton student and editor-in-chief of The Binghamton Review, told The Jerusalem Post that he was in class when it happened, “but saw it all over social media.”
“It was a ridiculous overreaction to an innocent event,” he said. “Far-leftists saw ‘Make America Great Again’ hats and flipped.
“Pipe Dream, the school’s mainstream newspaper, then wrote an extremely dishonest story in which they spread a false narrative that the members of the College Republicans and Turning Point USA were promoting gun rights in response to a school shooting,” he claimed.
He said that in his opinion, people trying to frame the conservative students was beyond ridiculous.
He said that The Binghamton Review, which promotes free speech and has typically attracted conservative and libertarian writers, made a point of speaking to people and gathering information that was not previously reported.
Binghamton University College Republicans president John Restuccia recalled the incident, citing that the almost 200 students “mobbed our tables, verbally harassed us, knocked over our tables, threw our materials and generally threatened and intimidated us.
“There is plenty of video evidence of these dangerous and potentially criminal actions by those who mobbed the area,” he said in a statement released on Sunday night.
“It has been suggested that the incident in question occurred because we didn’t have proper permitting,” he said. “In the past, Turning Point USA and our organization have ‘tabled’ without any problems and weren’t required to secure any sort of permits.
He emphasized that “countless other organizations have similarly ‘tabled’ without a permit requirement.”
Restuccia called on the university “to protect the First Amendment” and demanded that the University “take action against those who committed criminal behavior clearly evidenced in the video.”
In a statement, Binghamton University president Harvey G. Stenger noted the incident and the need for university police to get involved.
“Police response was appropriate and important to make sure that every student involved in this matter was safe and remained safe,” he said. “The incident ended and the crowd was able to be dispersed without anyone getting injured.”
Stenger called the incident unfortunate “from all perspectives.
“As a University, we encourage everyone to consider the perspectives of others — and the damaging impact words and images can have — even if they are protected as free speech under the First Amendment,” Stenger continued. “We strongly condemn any acts that impede the expression of one’s beliefs but also encourage everyone on this campus to enter into meaningful interactions with respectful dialogue and actions.”