Promises of disruptive protests and physical threats required police to escort me as I walked onto The American University (AU) campus Tuesday night to deliver a speech on why due process is especially important in the #MeToo era.
Several weeks ago, AU Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) invited me to give a speech on a topic of my choosing. The country was fixated on the Kavanaugh hearings. The subject seemed obvious: Due process. The title, “No, Don’t Believe All Women,” was intended to provoke thought.
The purpose of my speech was to encourage open thought about balancing support for sexual assault victims with protecting the rights of the accused and making sure that innocent lives aren’t ruined by false allegations. The topic proved too triggering for many students at American University.
Just hours after the event hit Facebook, students on campus expressed their intent to protest and organize a safe space. (RELATED: AU Students Plan Protests, Safe Space For Daily Caller Editor’s Speech)
“In light of an event taking place on campus on Tuesday, October 23rd that is promoting the disempowerment and invalidation of survivors in sharing their stories, AUSG WI will be opening our office as a safe space,” the American University Student Government Women’s Initiative wrote in a letter dated October 18.
“Let’s fucking crash this bullshit,” one student wrote on her Facebook page, while another encouraged YAL be classified a “hate group.”
Facing backlash from fellow students, the Young Americans for Liberty opted to change the name of the event without my permission, retitling it, “Your Due Process: #MeToo.”
On the day of my speech, following several TV interviews about the protests, I was informed of the police escort on campus and that security would be placed outside of the room in which I was speaking.
When the time came, a police officer and member of YAL met me at my car and escorted me across campus and through a back door into the event space.
The heightened security appeared to be just a precaution in case the planned protests got rowdy or out of control. Approximately five minutes before the speech, however, the school ramped up security because the police discovered credible threats made to myself and the hosts of the event.
Members of the Democratic Socialists club at AU who were planning on protesting the speech had previously posted guides in a Facebook group on how to physically fight “Nazis” — otherwise known as anyone who doesn’t agree with them.
“I am putting together a google drive folder with links, descriptions and photos for self defense / Nazi punching,” one student wrote on Facebook two days before my event was announced.
Inside the google drive folder were guides on how to use hand strikes and kicks. One document titled, “READ FIRST PLZ,” said that while the guides were intended for self defense, it depends “on what you define self-defense as.”
“Know that I will be very sad if this is all used to create a fight club when I am abroad and can’t join,” the author wrote. “Hopefully, most situations can be defused or non-violent methods can be used to overcome but there are certainly situations where knocking someone’s lights out is the best answer.”
One student warned that there were “pigs” outside of the “bullshit” event and told fellow dissenters to “be careful.”
Nonetheless, only a few students who civilly disagreed with me actually arrived to the speech on time and got seats to listen. Two of them, both women, walked out a minute or so after I started talking.
A large group of protesters eventually showed up halfway through my speech and complained when they were informed that the room was already filled to capacity. Despite their claims of wanting to come in and “silently protest,” it’s clear that they were attempting to disrupt my speech by having a large group enter the room while I was in the middle of speaking.
While I was inside talking about how a false sexual assault allegation led to Emmett Till’s lynching death in the 1950s, the group of protesters stood outside with signs and began chanting, “We Believe Survivors.”
The protesters continued to bellow outside for at least a minute, attempting to drown out my speech. They eventually got bored or tired or both and left the area voluntarily.
Luckily, the rest of the speech went smoothly and the Q&A discussion was largely respectful and productive. I’m sure that the protesters would’ve accomplished more if they had showed up to the event on time, listened to what I had to say, and then countered me during the Q&A.
Instead, they opted to put on political theater.
I would like to thank all of the police officers who made sure I was safe. Police are the medium through which victims can find justice, not the fickle court of public opinion or the kangaroo courts of campus.
The American University administrators deserve credit for affirming my right to speak on campus, and I hope that they will teach their students the importance of free speech and engaging with dissenting views in a respectful and productive manner.