House Dem’s Lecture Derailed By Hecklers; University President Claims ‘Free Speech’ Prevailed
U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) speaks during a news conference outside the U.S. Capitol on January 5, 2024 in Washington, DC. Democrats held a news conference to mark the 3rd anniversary of the Jan 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Hecklers disrupted a prominent House Democrat‘s university lecture on democracy last week, after which the president of the school ended the event due to what he called a show of “free speech.”

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), the ranking member of the Oversight Committee, spoke at the University of Maryland (UMD) on Thursday until a commotion about the Israel-Hamas war led him to get sidetracked and open the room to questions.

Although UMD President Darryll Pines reportedly cut short the lecture and wished the disruptors had been more civil, he told Capitol News Service that the result was a positive one.

“[Raskin] came here to speak about where our democracy is going in our country,” Pines reportedly said. “What you saw play out actually was democracy and free speech and academic freedom.”

He added, “From our perspective as a university, there are the difficult conversations that we should be having.”

Raskin told the news outlet the “sentiments” of the protesters were “perfectly consistent” with his planned lecture, which was titled “Democracy, Autocracy and the Threat to Reason in the 21st Century.”

The congressman said he is “not really opposed to heckling” but noted that “it seems like heckling today is all about drowning out the speaker, and that’s totally antithetical to the spirit of free expression.”

As word of what transpired at the event and what Pines had to say about it spread on social media, people chimed in about their views on protesters effectively shutting down speakers.

“President Pines is wrong,” said Nico Perrino, executive vice president of the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE).

“What you saw play out was mob censorship,” he continued. “It was a bastardization of free speech and the antithesis of democracy. These shout-downs happen far too often on college campuses — and with the approval of college administrators.”

NBC News reporter Jonathan Allen, a UMD alumnus, suggested that Pines’ comments should be called the “loudest-voice doctrine,” according to a post on X.

“It’s debatable the degree to which federally funded schools have a duty to ensure free speech,” he added. “What’s not debatable is that the [First Amendment] also protects the right of assembly — to allow political discourse. Nor is it debatable that intimidation can fall outside protected speech.”


UMD professor Howard Milchberg, who started the lecture with his family in recognition of his late parents who survived the Holocaust, posited that the disruption of Raskin’s remarks was a good thing.

“It didn’t go as planned, but it maybe turned out better than normal,” Milchberg told Capitol News Service. “It was an actual exercise of democracy rather than a story about democracy.”

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