The University of Tennessee will not punish the law professor who tweeted “run them down” about Charlotte protesters, after a school investigation found he was exercising his First Amendment rights.
“In short, no disciplinary action will be taken against Professor Reynolds,” law school Dean Melanie Wilson announced Tuesday, saying she had spent a week investigating the case. “The tweet was an exercise of his First Amendment rights.”
Glenn Reynolds fired off the tweet as protesters upset that police shot and killed Keith Lamont Scott were gathering on a highway in Charlotte, prompting a local news alert. “Protesters on I-277 stopping traffic and surrounding vehicles,” the alert read. “AVOID.”
Reynolds retweeted the alert, and added: “Run them down.”
The tweet went out to more than 70,000 followers and quickly drew fire. USA Today quickly suspended Reynolds’ column for the paper for a month, and UT began considering its own disciplinary action. Twitter suspended his account and reopened it only after he promised to delete the tweet.
Wilson said she reviewed the facts in the course of the UT investigation, considered university policies and the law in the course of the school’s investigation, and found that while the tweet was offensive, it did not warrant discipline.
“I understand the hurt and frustration they feel,” Wilson added in the statement.
Reynolds issued an apology for the tweet Tuesday, saying it was misunderstood as a call for drivers to purposely run over the protesters, but was intended as a warning to “keep driving” if a driver is being mobbed.
“I try to be careful and precise in my language,” Reynolds said. “I didn’t do that this time, and I unfortunately made a lot of people in the law school community sad or angry, something I certainly didn’t mean to do, and feel bad about.”
“Those words can be taken as encouragement of drivers going out of their way to run down protesters,” he added. “I meant no such thing, and I’m sorry it seemed to many that I did. What I meant was that drivers who feel their lives are in danger from a violent mob should not stop their vehicles.”
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