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Pace University students threatened by administrators
Facing expulsion for speaking out

March 17, 2006 | Page 2

TWO STUDENT activists at Pace University in New York City are being harassed by federal authorities and threatened with expulsion by school officials--for the "crime" of protesting a public forum featuring Bill Clinton. Brian Kelly and Lauren Giaccone were targeted by the Secret Service for heckling Clinton at his March 5 appearance.

Here, Brian explains how the crackdown came about--and asks for support in this important fight for the right to free speech.

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WHEN FORMER President Clinton visited Pace University's Westchester County campus to launch the university's centennial celebration, activists from Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and the Campus Antiwar Network (CAN) were there to meet him with resistance.

Activists held a peaceful picket outside the building, in which they handed out flyers with facts about Clinton. This picket was quickly shut down by campus security officers, who confiscated the students' materials.

After Clinton's speech--which he hypocritically used to preach about peace and "spreading democracy" around the world--two students, Brian Kelly and Lauren Giaccone, stood up and called him a war criminal. Kelly and Giaccone then cited Clinton's atrocities in Iraq, Bosnia, Sudan and Rwanda.

The two students were then removed from the auditorium by Westchester police and interrogated by Secret Service and police officers. Kelly and Giaccone were harassed by federal and local authorities, who demanded information about their political affiliations and medical records. A Secret Service agent attempted to deceive the students with a form that would have waived their right to doctor-patient confidentiality.

When the two said they couldn't recall certain details of the events, one of the police officers threatened to send them to the hospital for psychiatric evaluation, which the officer promised would "take at least 72 hours."

After Pace decided not to press charges, the students were then searched and photographed by both Secret Service and police officers.

The rest of the group was waiting outside the interrogation room, where police and Secret Service demanded to see their ID cards. They were told that if they cooperated, their friends would be released without charges.

A Secret Service agent asked one of the student activists about a letter they had sent to Pace President David Caputo the week before, demanding that the university withdraw its invitation to Clinton and apologize for inviting him. It became clear that the Pace administration had handed over the letter to the Secret Service before the event had even begun.

All of the students were escorted in a van to their cars by police and Secret Service agents. Their cars were searched after they clearly stated that they did not consent to any search of their vehicles. One officer stated: "We have been nice to you up until this point. We have your cars, we are going to search them. You have no choice in the matter."

On Tuesday, March 7, Pace Dean of Students Marijo Russell O'Grady interrupted a regular meeting of the Campus Antiwar Network and Students for a Democratic Society, claiming that "unrecognized" student groups had no right to meet on campus.

When Kelly and Giaccone returned to their dorms that night, they received letters from the university threatening to expel them for distributing flyers, holding a peaceful protest and meeting on campus. The two students believe that the university violated their First Amendment rights, and demanded that Pace drop all charges and formally apologize to the groups and students.

CAN and SDS held a press conference on the steps of New York City Hall, followed by a rally to counter President Caputo's State of the University address. The students gave the real state of the university: Abridgement of civil rights and liberties; union-busting tactics towards the adjuncts', cafeteria workers' and transportation workers' unions; and a huge university deficit of $3.2 million.

Approximately 50 students, professors and supporters from Pace and around the city held a lively protest on the university's campus in downtown New York City.

Kelly and Giaccone are under investigation by the Secret Service, and the threat of expulsion by the university remains. But students and their supporters are fighting back--seeking to change Pace's unconstitutional policies that prevent students from organizing against the war in Iraq, while also challenging the university's unfair labor practices and tuition hikes.

Call on Pace University to stop its threats against Brian Kelly and Lauren Giaccone. Call Pace University President David Caputo at 212-346-1097, or e-mail him at [email protected]. Send letters of support to Brian at [email protected] and Lauren [email protected]. For information about the case, visit www.traprockpeace.org/pace_repression on the Web.

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