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Sunday, September 23, 2007

Columbia allows Ahmadinejad, not protesters

Free speech at Columbia is apparently limited only to enemies of the United States. Those protesting the appearance of Ahmedinejad will not be allowed to protest.

AMCHA denied access to protest at Columbia

For immediate release
September 21, 2007
Contact: Rabbi Avi Weiss: 718-884-0930


AMCHA - the Coalition for Jewish Concerns is planning a major counter - vigil of conscience at 115th and Broadway as Ahmadinejad speaks at Columbia University on Sept. 24th at 12:30pm.

AMCHA has also sent the attached letter to Columbia University president Lee Bollinger, protesting Columbia's decision to close the campus to outside demonstrators.

As the AMCHA letter indicates, "This limitation on non-University affiliated persons is particularly inappropriate here where the speaker and his considerable entourage is not affiliated with Columbia University."

Rabbi Avi Weiss, National President of AMCHA, indicated that "We've raised a voice against Palestinian disinvestment conferences at Ohio State, Duke, and Michigan amongst others.This is the first time a university campus has been closed off to us."

Should the university not grant AMCHA the right to protest on campus, AMCHA, as the letter indicates, "will consider pursuing legal remedies."

September 21, 2007
Via Facsimile and E-mail
Mr. Lee C. Bollinger
Columbia University
535 West 116th Street
202 Low Library
Mail Code 4309
New York, NY 10027
Dear President Bollinger:

This firm represents Rabbi Avi Weiss and Amcha the Coalition for Jewish
Concerns ("Amcha").I write in connection with the upcoming visit of Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad, the President of Iran, to the Columbia campus on Monday,
September 24.

Rabbi Weiss and Amcha intend to protest against Mr. Ahmadinejad but have
been advised that only Columbia University students and faculty will be
permitted on the campus on Monday, September 24, and thus, neither Rabbi
Weiss nor Amcha will be permitted to protest against Mr. Ahmadinejad at that

You are a First Amendment scholar of considerable repute and as such are, I
suspect, both sympathetic to and supportive of the First Amendment
principles of free expression that permeate Columbia's own policies and
regulations regarding demonstrations, rallies and picketing.Specifically,
Section 440 of Chapter XLIV of the Rules of University Conduct provides:

Demonstrations, rallies, picketing, and the circulation of petitions have an
important place in the life of a university.They are means by which protests
may be registered and attention drawn to new directions possible in the
evolution of the University community. . . . .

While the University as a private institution is not subject to the
Constitutional provisions of free speech and due process of law, the
University by its nature is dedicated to the free expression of ideas and to
evenhanded and fair dealing with all with whom it conducts it affairs.The
Rules of University Conduct are thus enacted by the University to provide as
a matter of University policy the maximum freedom of expression consistent
with the rights of others. . .

While the University certainly has the right to enact and apply reasonable
restraints on the time, place and manner of demonstrations, banning all
non-University affiliated persons from the entire campus is not such a
reasonable restraint.

This limitation on non-University affiliated persons is particularly
inappropriate here where the speaker and his considerable entourage (which I
understand will be permitted on the Columbia University campus) is not
affiliated with Columbia University.

I therefore ask that you advise by return facsimile today or on Sunday
whether the University will permit Rabbi Weiss, Amcha and others similarly
situated, onto the Columbia University campus on Monday, September 24, 2007
so that they may peaceably demonstrate against Mr. Ahmadinejad and the
hate-filled and offensive positions that he has long advocated.

Should the University not permit Rabbi Weiss and Amcha to demonstrate on
campus on Monday, September 24 in accordance with the University's own
policies and guidelines, Rabbi Weiss and Amcha will consider pursuing their
legal remedies.
Very truly yours,
Steven Lieberman
cc:Rabbi Avi Weiss

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