Anti-Israel Protest At Georgetown Law Tests Limits Of Free Speech

Anti-Israel Protest At Georgetown Law Tests Limits Of Free Speech

As I left Georgetown Law School’s campus recently, dozens of police and security officers were stationed around McDonough Hall. Inside, Rudy Rochman, a peace activist and reservist in the Israeli military, was about to speak to students about combating antisemitism.

What happened next is now viral. Protesters demonstrated against the event, trying to interrupt the talk from outside the room before entering holding “IDF Off Campus” signs. One student raised her “blood” painted hands, which looked like a recreation of an anti-Israeli attack in Ramallah. As student Rachel Wolff described, protesters were “dress[ing] up like Jew-lynching terrorists who proudly display Jewish blood on their hands to celebrate their deaths.”

The situation highlights the inadequacy of the current campus speech paradigm to address a new form of disruption. In this case, students were able to harass their peers and impose on the free speech of others under the guise of silent protesting. 

Faculty who attended the event found no free speech violations because the in-room demonstration was ostensibly short and quiet. If judged solely by the loudness or brashness of the incidents that occurred at Stanford University and other law schools, and only by what occurred inside the room, then the protest is perhaps in a gray area. But that’s only part of the story.