Note: I am a Brown Alumnus (A.M. ‘09)
Last week New York Police Department (NYPD) Commissioner Raymond Kelly was invited to give a talk at Brown University titled “Proactive Policing in America’s Biggest City.” Kelly is an ardent believer in, and overseer of, the largely unpopular and controversial ‘Stop and Frisk’ policy in New York (Learn more about Stop and Frisk). Stop and Frisk allows a police officer to stop, question and frisk people, provided that there is a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. In practice, however, the policy systemically targets and harasses people and communities of color.
So when the Brown University student body, as well as the community at large, heard that Commissioner Kelly would be giving a talk on campus, there was considerable outrage and plans to protest. And sure enough, when the time came for the talk the protests were there to greet him: Kelly was shouted down and, after 20 minutes of being prevented to speak, left the stage. Responses to the incident consisted of predictable pablum: on the one side, protesters claiming that the implementer of a racist policy should not be given the opportunity to speak, and on the other side people, such as Brown President Christina Paxson, arguing that “The conduct of disruptive members of the audience [is] an affront both to civil democratic society and to the university’s core values of dialogue and the free exchange of views.”