Earlier this year, Davis, CA, police officer Natalie Corona was shot and killed while responding to a call about a car crash. While Corona conducted an investigation into what caused the crash, a man riding a bicycle, later identified as Kevin Douglas Limbaugh, approached the scene. He shot Corona as she spoke to someone involved in the crash. She fell, and he continued shooting her. He then began shooting bystanders. He fled into a nearby residence and, after a standoff with other officers, committed suicide, according to The Washington Post.
At the University of California-Davis, a reporter for the student newspaper, The California Aggie, decided to use the officer’s death to look into rumors that a professor on campus had previously advocated for cops to be killed. Nick Irvin, the reporter, found several tweets disparaging police from professor Joshua Clover, who teaches English and comparative literature.
“I am thankful that every living cop will one day be dead, some by their own hand, some by others, too many of old age #letsnotmakemore,” read one tweet from November 2014.
“I mean, it’s easier to shoot cops when their backs are turned, no?” read another from December 2014.
In January 2016, Clover gave an interview in which he said: “People think that cops need to be reformed. They need to be killed.”
Clover, a fan of Marxism, naturally, stood by his previous tweets when confronted by Irvin. “I think we can all agree that the most effective way to end any violence against officers is the complete and immediate abolition of the police,” Clover told the reporter.
When asked for more information, Clover directed Irvin “to the family of Michael Brown,” a young black man who was shot in Ferguson, Missouri, after attacking a police officer and running toward him once again. The media framed the death as police oppression, spreading the debunked claim that Brown had his hands up in defense when he was shot.
Irvin reached out to UC-Davis administrators, who condemned Clover’s statements and said the school supports law enforcement.
On March 4, 2019, UC-Davis Chancellor Gary S. May sent a letter to California Assemblyman James Gallagher (R-Nicolaus) regarding concerns about Clover’s past statements. On Thursday, May sent a follow-up to Gallagher discussing the steps the university took to address Clover.
As part of the latest letter, May wrote that while the university feels Clover’s statements are “offensive and abhorrent,” they did “not meet the legal requirements for ‘true threats’ that might exempt them from First Amendment protection.”
Further, May cited President Donald Trump’s March 22, 2019 executive order on free speech as part of the reasoning behind the decision not to punish Clover:
In addition to existing state and federal constitutional requirements, the university is subject to President Trump’s March 22, 2019, executive order directing federal agencies to take steps to ensure that institutions receiving federal research or education grants promote free inquiry in a manner consistent with applicable law, including the First Amendment. Failure to protect the First Amendment rights of university faculty could not only lead to legal consequences for violating the Constitution, but also could result in a loss of federal funding which is critical to the university’s research and teaching mission.
This, May wrote, along with state and federal law, is the reason the university will not review or investigate Clover’s public statements.