Columns

Hare ’14: Solidarity against Kelly undermines U.’s credibility

By
Guest Columnist
Thursday, October 31, 2013

Just before his speech was canceled by the relentless interruptions of protesters, New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said, “I thought this was the academy … where we’re supposed to have free speech.” So did I. But at Brown’s most recent demonstration of its inability to foster healthy intellectual discourse, this was not the case.

In fact, that one line about free speech is just about the only sentence I was able to hear Kelly utter at his lecture on Tuesday before calls of protest and personal attacks filled List Art Center 120. I had expected some protests and initially flocked to event because I knew I was guaranteed to see some genuine Brown student activism. I thought this would be a great platform on which I could write a compelling column contesting racial politics and the constitutional legality of the controversial stop-and-frisk policy. Unfortunately, my initial academic interest in the event was quickly overshadowed by a much less compelling movement of solidarity among certain students in the Brown community.

Prior to my arrival outside of List, I was unaware a formal petition had actually been circulated through parts of the student body with the intention of completely cancelling the lecture. Yes, I had visited the Facebook event page, “Ray Kelly Protest Rally,” and read it as an organizing point for protest, but I would not have thought the organizers’ mission to be to destroy any discussion of such a relevant and provocative topic as “Proactive Policing.” I was in for a surprise.

I headed over to College Street at around 3:30 p.m., a half hour before the lecture was to start. I could hear chants as I walked across the Quiet Green: “Racist, sexist, anti-gay / How many kids did you kill today? / Islamophobic, thanks to Ray: / NYPD go away!” I had never heard of Ray Kelly killing any kids — it sounded like massive social recalcitrance funneled into a cute chant to pin on a visiting lecturer.

I asked the Providence Police and Brown Department of Public Safety officers present at the event how they felt having fellow officers insulted and ridiculed for doing their jobs. They all declined to comment. It seems race is the most sensitive of topics — everyone fears the slightest chance of being labeled on the wrong side. And so, with obnoxiousness dominating insecurity, the marching parade headed inside.

Most of what happened next has been well-documented in news sources from The Herald to the Wall Street Journal. Kelly’s lecture was repeatedly interrupted by jeers and insults to the point of degeneration in which racial accusations affronted every attempt at intellectual discourse, and so the lecture was canceled. So much for my column on racial politics and constitutionality. I was disappointed, to say the least.

But my biggest disappointment, and the real tragedy of this event, was the explicit unwillingness of the protesters to allow for an academic discussion of such an important and relevant topic. Their quick justification for the complete repudiation of the lecture is that the policy Kelly represents has made minorities undeserved victims, which is certainly true to an extent. But let us not forget these policies have prevented minorities from becoming more serious victims of assault, rape and homicide. In fact, crime in New York City has declined more than 30 percent in the past decade, partially due to these policies. Therefore, it is unfair and childish to simply discount a valuable opportunity to learn about an effective but imperfect system as a promulgation of white supremacy.

And so the Brown community is left with a wasted opportunity. Those who were interested in learning the details of proactive policing learned nothing. And those who stood against Kelly wasted a valuable opportunity to hear him untainted by any sort of media representation, an opportunity to form a genuine and individual opinion of his policies and their implications.

Sadly, this event makes the case that Brown responds to perceived violence with violence, even when progress is being made through formal discourse — the stop-and-frisk policy was ruled unconstitutional in August. Thus, Brown can no longer choose to frame itself as an “open-minded” institution, as events like these undermine the University’s credibility to the point where future lecturers will be reluctant to visit campus.

I can only hope and urge members of the Brown community to recall that progress is not achieved through violent expression and silencing of others, but through a constant drive for perspective and understanding. That is what makes us confident in our beliefs and in ourselves.

J.P. Hare ’14 is concentrating in history.

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  • jimmyt

    I thought this was America where we were supposed to have rights

    How Ironic from a man who has denied millions their rights

    • Mr. Softee

      JP Hare denied millions their rights? Really? How does a Brown student do that?

  • RHimes

    Never heard of any kids being killed? Check your facts before you write.

    Kimani Gray, 16, unarmed. Shot 4 times in the front and side of his body and three times in the back as he left a birthday party in Brooklyn.

    Shaaliver Douse, 14. Shot and killed by NYPD after he fired a handgun at a man he was chasing down Bronx street.

    Timothy Stansbury, Jr. 19. Unarmed. Shot and killed by police in a Brooklyn stairwell.

    These are few among many. These are not names I had to look to far to find. These are only some of many cases in New York, not including lives around the country which have been taken by police brutality as departments implement policies which mimic Ray Kelly’s. This does not include the seven year old girl killed in a raid on her home in Detroit.

    At this moment, and far too frequently, I am disgusted by the caliber of research and journalism published in the BDH. Don’t you ever, EVER, dismiss accusations pertaining to the murder of anyone, especially children, as “cute.” How dare you.

    • Buggy

      It’s actually a rather large disconnect between the fact that many officers are overly brutal or violent and saying that the police commissioner had an active hand in their murder. This would put murders upon any in power who have subordinates you ineffectually carried out their jobs and caused people to be hurt or killed. This is why many people found it extreme to accuse Ray Kelly of killing children, because there is an obvious logical disconnect which most people understand between being in charge of an organization which may commit crimes, actively committing crimes, and having explicit policy which has an agency to commit crimes. So accusing the author of bad research isn’t so much bad research on his part, but strange logic on your part.

  • Locke

    Its a mistake to say “stop and frisk” policies killed those people. The poor wisdom or abused implementation of “stop and frisk” may have led to deaths that may have not otherwise occurred but so do MRIs. So does driving. In its conception, there’s nothing about “stop and frisk” that kills people, its an unintended consequence and a tragedy.

    My point is its misleading to attack stop and frisk for the actions of a handful of rogue cops. Can’t you imagine the policy being implemented without anyone dying (perhaps even saving lives)?

    Attack the best of your opponents arguments, give them the benefit of the double, and then prove them wrong anyway. You’re arguing for a more wisely implemented stop and frisk policy or a tighter reign on cops who execute the action. Talk about the idea (which we unfortunately couldn’t hear Kelly speak about yesterday).

    • mxm123

      Handful of rogue cops. Every cop in NYC has a quota of 250’s. Else no promotions and posted on night shifts alone.

      The victims of “stop and frisk”, who are blacks/hispanics/muslims have no voice.

  • DIYinSTL

    Proactive policing vs. proactive censorship. Both are wrong.

  • remain_in_light

    Thank you Mr. Hare for your measured and mature discussion. HB ’83