breaking, Headlines, News, Opinion, Reason, syndicated

Philando Castile’s Mother to Get $3 Million From City That Hired Cop Who Killed Him

The mother of Philando Castile, who was shot dead by St. Anthony, Minnesota, police officer Jeronimo Yanez last summer, will receive $3 million under a settlement agreement announced yesterday. The settlement, which will be covered by the city’s liability insurance, avoids a federal civil rights lawsuit that Valerie Castile had planned to bring. Here is how the payment compares to settlements in other recent cases where people died at the hands of police or after being arrested:

Michael Brown: $1.5 million

Sandra Bland: $1.9 million

Zachary Hammond: $2.2 million

Philando Castile: $3 million

Samuel DuBose: $4.9 million

Eric Garner: $5.9 million

Danroy Henry Jr.: $6 million

Tamir Rice: $6 million

Freddie Gray: $6.4 million

Walter Scott: $6.5 million

The variation in payments is not a perfect indicator of police culpability (real or perceived) by any means, but there does seem to be a rough correspondence.

The 2014 death of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old black man, was one of the main motivating events behind the Black Lives Matter movement. But no state or federal charges were filed against Darren Wilson, the Ferguson, Missouri, officer who shot Brown and a Justice Department report concluded that Wilson’s self-defense claim was credible.

Sandra Bland, a 28-year-old black woman, died in jail, apparently by her own hand. But she would not have been in jail if Texas State Trooper Brian Encinia’s hadn’t senselessly escalated a 2015 traffic stop for changing lanes without signaling. Encinia was fired and charged with falsifying his report on the incident.

Zachary Hammond, a 19-year-old white man, was shot and killed in 2015 by Lt. Mark Tiller of the Seneca, South Carolina, police department. No charges were filed against Tiller, who claimed (not very credibly) to fear that Hammond was about to run him over as he sped away from a penny-ante drug sting aimed at his date.

Although Yanez claimed Castile, a 32-year-old black man, was drawing a gun on him during a traffic stop for a nonfunctional brake light, all the evidence (aside from Yanez’s testimony) suggested that Castile, who had calmly informed Yanez that he had a concealed weapon (for which he had a permit), was actually trying to retrieve his driver’s license from his wallet. A state jury acquitted Yanez of second-degree manslaughter on June 16.

Samuel DuBose was shot to death in 2015 by University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing after he started his car during a traffic stop based on a missing front licene plate. Although Tensing claimed he was being dragged by the car, bodycam footage indicated otherwise. An indictment for murder and voluntary manslaughter was followed by two mistrials, both due to deadlocked juries.

Eric Garner died in 2014 after he was tackled by New York City police who were arresting him for selling untaxed cigarettes. One officer, Daniel Pantaleo, used what looked like an unauthorized chokehold on Garner, who repeatedly complained that he could not breathe. A local grand jury declined to indict Pantaleo.

Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old black boy, was shot and killed in 2014 by Cleveland police officer Timothy Loehmann, who mistook his Airsoft pellet pistol for a real firearm. A local grand jury declined to indict Loehmann or his partner, Frank Garmback, although Loehmann was fired for failing to disclose that he had been dismissed from a previous police position because of emotional instability.

Danroy Henry Jr., a 20-year-old black college student and football player, was shot and killed in 2010 by Pleasantville, New York, police officer Aaron Hess, who for reasons that are unclear stepped into the path of a car that Henry was driving and then treated him as a deadly threat. Hess did not face state or federal charges, although a Justice Department investigation concluded that Henry probably had his foot on the brake when his car hit Hess.

Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man, died in 2015 from a neck injury he suffered after being arrested by Baltimore police for possessing an allegedly illegal knife. Six officers faced state charges in connection with his death. One case ended in a mistrial and three officers were acquitted, after which the charges against the remaining two officers were dropped.

Walter Scott, a 50-year-old black man, was shot in the back by North Charleston, South Carolina, police officer Michael Slager, while fleeing a 2015 traffic stop based on a nonfunctioning brake light. Slager was immediately dismissed. After a state jury failed to reach a verdict, Slager pleaded guilty to federal civil rights charges.

Except for the deaths of Michael Brown and Danroy Henry, all of these incidents were at least partly captured by some sort of camera. It makes sense that the largest settlement came in the Walter Scott case, where damning bystander video showed that the officer was clearly not in danger at the time of the shooting. The facts were so unfavorable to Slager that he eventually pleaded guilty, making this the only case on the list to produce a conviction. It likewise makes sense that the smallest settlement was related to the death of Michael Brown, who scuffled with Wilson and seemed to pose a real threat.

Generally speaking, stronger self-defense claims seem to be associated with lower settlements. They also make criminal charges less likely, which in turn may play a role in settlement negotiations. The Danroy Henry settlement seems like an outlier, since Hess was indisputably in danger at the moment of the shooting, albeit a danger that he himself created. Like Tiller, who killed Zachary Hammond, Hess put himself in the path of a moving car.

Read More on Reason

breaking, Headlines, News, Opinion, Reason, syndicated

Connecticut’s Liquor Pricing Scheme Is a Bad Law That Just Won’t Die

Shoppers in Connecticut pay the price of paternalism every time they frequent a local liquor store. Prices are 24 percent higher than in neighboring states or up to $8 more a bottle, thanks to a law that has its roots in prohibition.

Unlike some other states that prevent liquor retailers from selling below a product’s cost, Connecticut instead allows wholesalers and manufacturers to post a minimum per bottle and per case price. Once prices are posted to the Department of Consumer Protections, prices can be amended to match a competitior’s before a price is finalized for the next month. Retailers then add their shipping and delivery costs to the per-bottle price and cannot sell below this cost. Wholesalers must sell at the same price to all retailers.

Despite efforts from liquor giant Total Wine and Company and the free-market Democratic governor Daniel Malloy, the pricing cartel continues. Most recently, Total Wine’s antitrust lawsuit, which accuses the state of price-fixing, was dismissed by a federal judge earlier this month. Chief United States District Judge for the District of Connecticut Janet C. Hall decided that the complex state regulations do not violate federal antitrust laws.

The archaic pricing system has made business rather cozy for the state’s small liquor stores, which never have to worry about competitor’s prices. For Total Wine, a chain with 138 stores in 18 states, this law prevents it from offering lower prices due to its comparative advantage. As summarized in their legal filing: “Under this anti-competitive regime, a retailer like Total Wine & More cannot use its market and business efficiencies to reduce the prices offered to consumers.”

Total Wine has previously been called a “gorilla” and accused of being “diabolical” and “predatory” for trying to save consumers money. The state’s 1,150 small package stores have consistently lobbied against changing the pricing scheme.

Total Wine attracted attention to their suit with full page newspaper ads, promising to sell liquor below the state minimum. Another company, BevMax, joined in on the protest and lawsuit. Total Wine paid $37,500 in fines as a result. The stores also posted signs requesting customers call their legislators when the state required prices be raised. Company spokesman Ed Cooper called it an act of “civil disobedience.” The state legislature responded with two bills to increase penalties for violating minimum bottle price or false advertising.

The legislature has been notoriously defensive of the minimum pricing scheme and repeatedly blocked gov. Malloy from tossing the law out. Here’s more on Gov. Malloy’s efforts by Reason’s Jacob Sullum.

This is now the fifth year in a row in which the governor has proposed overturning the pricing scheme and adopting a system similar to other states in which products can be sold for the price paid. Most likely, the legislature will again strike down his proposal. According to Malloy, in any other industry, an anti-competitive law would be tossed out immediately: “If we had a law that forced stores to sell bread for a price that was determined by state government, people would be screaming about capitalism and big government. But for some reason, we allow this anti-free market mandate to continue for this one particular industry.”

Proponents of the law, such as Lawrence Cafero a former House minority leader and executive director and general counsel of the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of Connecticut, said in testimony that “this change in our decades old law will be devastating to most local family owned Connecticut package stores.”

Malloy has stated that doing away with the regulation would increase state tax revenue by $5 million due to increased liquor sales, while supporters of the policy believe it would decrease tax revenue as the sales tax would be collected on a cheaper item. Since liquor stores in Massachusetts have targeted Connecticut shoppers with “drive for savings” advertisements, Malloy’s estimate of increased in-state spending should be given due consideration.

Even with a boost in tax revenue, supporters of the paternalistic policy would not be satisfied. Rep. Daniel Rovero complained that “the state of Connecticut is trying to raise revenue on the wrong items. We want to sell more liquor in Connecticut. How many problem drinkers do we have now?”

In another example, a doctoral candidate at the University of Connecticut wrote a column defending mandatory minimum prices. He argued that the law saves lives “because the heaviest drinkers are the same individuals who buy the cheapest alcohol.”

But despite higher prices than neighboring states, Connecticut ranks worse than neighboring Massachusetts in impaired driving fatalities, with 103 deaths compared to 96 in 2015. Massachusetts also has almost double the population. The Center of Disease Control ranks Connecticut and Massachusetts equal in prevalence of binge drinking, but higher than neighboring New York. Connecticut ranks higher than both neighbors in the intensity of binge drinking.

While Total Wine’s lawsuit has failed and Connecticut is unlikely to dissolve the liquor pricing cartel, Total Wine promises not to abandon the fight against government overreach.

Read More on Reason

breaking, Headlines, News, Opinion, Reason, syndicated

‘Get Out or We Will Kill You’: Jewish Students Allege Censorship and Harassment in Campus Lawsuit

In a federal lawsuit filed last week, a group of Jewish plaintiffs allege that San Francisco State University has systematically turned a blind eye to—and in some instances actively facilitated—censorship and harassment of Jewish students and speakers on the public university’s campus. The lawsuit points, in particular, to the 2016 disruption of a speech by Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, numerous incidents of anti-Jewish and anti-Israel speech on campus, as well as an incident in which the Jewish student organization Hillel was allegedly banned from a student fair.

Opinions about the lawsuit fall along predictable dividing lines. The editorial board of J., the Jewish News of Northern California, praised the suit and argued that the protesters at the Nir Barkat event had “trampled the free speech rights of Jewish students.” On the other hand, Dima Khalidi of Palestine Legal called the Barkat protest “political speech that is protected by the First Amendment” and said that “the complaint is going to fail.”

Both sides have a point. The lawsuit raises real concerns about the treatment of Jewish students at SFSU. But the plaintiffs seem to want it both ways: Even as the suit contends that SFSU is violating the free speech rights of Jewish students, it also demands that the university censor protected speech by Palestinian students and their allies, citing anti-Jewish harassment.

As Justice Thurgood Marshall wrote, “the freedom to speak and freedom to hear are inseparable; they are two sides of the same coin.” If, as the lawsuit alleges, SFSU officials told campus police to “stand down” while anti-Israel protesters disrupted Nir Barkat’s speech, the university may indeed have violated students’ First Amendment rights to invite and hear a speaker of their choosing.

Video footage of Barkat’s attempt to speak at SFSU last year shows protesters engaging in loud, sustained chanting while students attending the speech huddle around a seated Barkat in an attempt to hear him. While protest is indeed protected by the First Amendment (as is a normal level of “booing” and brief interruptions from the audience), the right to protest does not extend to the right to be so vocally disruptive, for such a prolonged period of time, that the speaker cannot be heard.

And if, as the suit alleges, the university allowed the Hillel student group to be excluded from tabling at a university-sponsored fair because of the organization’s viewpoint, that too could constitute a First Amendment violation at a public university like SFSU.

Moving from the First Amendment to the harassment claims, some of the speech cited by the plaintiffs may have crossed the line from protected speech into unprotected threats, such as counter-protesters allegedly yelling “get out or we will kill you” at Jewish students participating in a Hillel-sponsored peace rally.

Other parts of the lawsuit, however, point to examples of clearly protected speech and expression as grounds for the claim that a “hostile environment” exists for Jewish students on campus. In alleging that the university has been deliberately indifferent to a racially hostile environment, the plaintiffs point to examples of constitutionally protected political expression such as posters featuring a picture of a dead baby with the caption “Made in Israel—Palestinian Children Meat, Slaughtered According to Jewish Rites Under American License,” as well as students holding placards proclaiming “my heroes have always killed colonizers” and “resistance is not terrorism” alongside portraits of Leila Khaled, the first female airplane hijacker. It is not difficult to see why such speech would offend many students, but asking a government institution like SFSU to police this kind of political rhetoric in the name of preventing a “hostile environment” is a prescription for both First Amendment violations and political side-choosing.

In short: it’s complicated. If the truth of the allegations is proven in court, the plaintiffs have some very real grievances about some of the university’s conduct and, certainly, about what J. refers to as the “selective outrage” when it comes to the university’s response to Jewish students on campus versus other students who claim to feel silenced or threatened. But in other ways, the suit goes too far, citing constitutionally protected political speech and expression as examples of harassment.

This fight should never have had to go to court in the first place. A university campus should be a place where people who disagree about important issues can discuss their differences openly, not a place where opposing views are shouted down, threats are tossed across protest lines, and both sides work to suppress the speech of their opponents.

Read More on Reason

breaking, Headlines, News, Opinion, Reason, syndicated

‘Get Out or We Will Kill You’: Jewish Students Allege Censorship and Harassment in Campus Lawsuit

In a federal lawsuit filed last week, a group of Jewish plaintiffs allege that San Francisco State University has systematically turned a blind eye to—and in some instances actively facilitated—censorship and harassment of Jewish students and speakers on the public university’s campus. The lawsuit points, in particular, to the 2016 disruption of a speech by Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, numerous incidents of anti-Jewish and anti-Israel speech on campus, as well as an incident in which the Jewish student organization Hillel was allegedly banned from a student fair.

Opinions about the lawsuit fall along predictable dividing lines. The editorial board of J., the Jewish News of Northern California, praised the suit and argued that the protesters at the Nir Barkat event had “trampled the free speech rights of Jewish students.” On the other hand, Dima Khalidi of Palestine Legal called the Barkat protest “political speech that is protected by the First Amendment” and said that “the complaint is going to fail.”

Both sides have a point. The lawsuit raises real concerns about the treatment of Jewish students at SFSU. But the plaintiffs seem to want it both ways: Even as the suit contends that SFSU is violating the free speech rights of Jewish students, it also demands that the university censor protected speech by Palestinian students and their allies, citing anti-Jewish harassment.

As Justice Thurgood Marshall wrote, “the freedom to speak and freedom to hear are inseparable; they are two sides of the same coin.” If, as the lawsuit alleges, SFSU officials told campus police to “stand down” while anti-Israel protesters disrupted Nir Barkat’s speech, the university may indeed have violated students’ First Amendment rights to invite and hear a speaker of their choosing.

Video footage of Barkat’s attempt to speak at SFSU last year shows protesters engaging in loud, sustained chanting while students attending the speech huddle around a seated Barkat in an attempt to hear him. While protest is indeed protected by the First Amendment (as is a normal level of “booing” and brief interruptions from the audience), the right to protest does not extend to the right to be so vocally disruptive, for such a prolonged period of time, that the speaker cannot be heard.

And if, as the suit alleges, the university allowed the Hillel student group to be excluded from tabling at a university-sponsored fair because of the organization’s viewpoint, that too could constitute a First Amendment violation at a public university like SFSU.

Moving from the First Amendment to the harassment claims, some of the speech cited by the plaintiffs may have crossed the line from protected speech into unprotected threats, such as counter-protesters allegedly yelling “get out or we will kill you” at Jewish students participating in a Hillel-sponsored peace rally.

Other parts of the lawsuit, however, point to examples of clearly protected speech and expression as grounds for the claim that a “hostile environment” exists for Jewish students on campus. In alleging that the university has been deliberately indifferent to a racially hostile environment, the plaintiffs point to examples of constitutionally protected political expression such as posters featuring a picture of a dead baby with the caption “Made in Israel—Palestinian Children Meat, Slaughtered According to Jewish Rites Under American License,” as well as students holding placards proclaiming “my heroes have always killed colonizers” and “resistance is not terrorism” alongside portraits of Leila Khaled, the first female airplane hijacker. It is not difficult to see why such speech would offend many students, but asking a government institution like SFSU to police this kind of political rhetoric in the name of preventing a “hostile environment” is a prescription for both First Amendment violations and political side-choosing.

In short: it’s complicated. If the truth of the allegations is proven in court, the plaintiffs have some very real grievances about some of the university’s conduct and, certainly, about what J. refers to as the “selective outrage” when it comes to the university’s response to Jewish students on campus versus other students who claim to feel silenced or threatened. But in other ways, the suit goes too far, citing constitutionally protected political speech and expression as examples of harassment.

This fight should never have had to go to court in the first place. A university campus should be a place where people who disagree about important issues can discuss their differences openly, not a place where opposing views are shouted down, threats are tossed across protest lines, and both sides work to suppress the speech of their opponents.

Read More on Reason

breaking, Headlines, News, Opinion, Reason, syndicated

‘Get Out or We Will Kill You’: Jewish Students Allege Censorship and Harassment in Campus Lawsuit

In a federal lawsuit filed last week, a group of Jewish plaintiffs allege that San Francisco State University has systematically turned a blind eye to—and in some instances actively facilitated—censorship and harassment of Jewish students and speakers on the public university’s campus. The lawsuit points, in particular, to the 2016 disruption of a speech by Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, numerous incidents of anti-Jewish and anti-Israel speech on campus, as well as an incident in which the Jewish student organization Hillel was allegedly banned from a student fair.

Opinions about the lawsuit fall along predictable dividing lines. The editorial board of J., the Jewish News of Northern California, praised the suit and argued that the protesters at the Nir Barkat event had “trampled the free speech rights of Jewish students.” On the other hand, Dima Khalidi of Palestine Legal called the Barkat protest “political speech that is protected by the First Amendment” and said that “the complaint is going to fail.”

Both sides have a point. The lawsuit raises real concerns about the treatment of Jewish students at SFSU. But the plaintiffs seem to want it both ways: Even as the suit contends that SFSU is violating the free speech rights of Jewish students, it also demands that the university censor protected speech by Palestinian students and their allies, citing anti-Jewish harassment.

As Justice Thurgood Marshall wrote, “the freedom to speak and freedom to hear are inseparable; they are two sides of the same coin.” If, as the lawsuit alleges, SFSU officials told campus police to “stand down” while anti-Israel protesters disrupted Nir Barkat’s speech, the university may indeed have violated students’ First Amendment rights to invite and hear a speaker of their choosing.

Video footage of Barkat’s attempt to speak at SFSU last year shows protesters engaging in loud, sustained chanting while students attending the speech huddle around a seated Barkat in an attempt to hear him. While protest is indeed protected by the First Amendment (as is a normal level of “booing” and brief interruptions from the audience), the right to protest does not extend to the right to be so vocally disruptive, for such a prolonged period of time, that the speaker cannot be heard.

And if, as the suit alleges, the university allowed the Hillel student group to be excluded from tabling at a university-sponsored fair because of the organization’s viewpoint, that too could constitute a First Amendment violation at a public university like SFSU.

Moving from the First Amendment to the harassment claims, some of the speech cited by the plaintiffs may have crossed the line from protected speech into unprotected threats, such as counter-protesters allegedly yelling “get out or we will kill you” at Jewish students participating in a Hillel-sponsored peace rally.

Other parts of the lawsuit, however, point to examples of clearly protected speech and expression as grounds for the claim that a “hostile environment” exists for Jewish students on campus. In alleging that the university has been deliberately indifferent to a racially hostile environment, the plaintiffs point to examples of constitutionally protected political expression such as posters featuring a picture of a dead baby with the caption “Made in Israel—Palestinian Children Meat, Slaughtered According to Jewish Rites Under American License,” as well as students holding placards proclaiming “my heroes have always killed colonizers” and “resistance is not terrorism” alongside portraits of Leila Khaled, the first female airplane hijacker. It is not difficult to see why such speech would offend many students, but asking a government institution like SFSU to police this kind of political rhetoric in the name of preventing a “hostile environment” is a prescription for both First Amendment violations and political side-choosing.

In short: it’s complicated. If the truth of the allegations is proven in court, the plaintiffs have some very real grievances about some of the university’s conduct and, certainly, about what J. refers to as the “selective outrage” when it comes to the university’s response to Jewish students on campus versus other students who claim to feel silenced or threatened. But in other ways, the suit goes too far, citing constitutionally protected political speech and expression as examples of harassment.

This fight should never have had to go to court in the first place. A university campus should be a place where people who disagree about important issues can discuss their differences openly, not a place where opposing views are shouted down, threats are tossed across protest lines, and both sides work to suppress the speech of their opponents.

Read More on Reason

breaking, Headlines, News, Opinion, Reason, syndicated

‘Get Out or We Will Kill You’: Jewish Students Allege Censorship and Harassment in Campus Lawsuit

In a federal lawsuit filed last week, a group of Jewish plaintiffs allege that San Francisco State University has systematically turned a blind eye to—and in some instances actively facilitated—censorship and harassment of Jewish students and speakers on the public university’s campus. The lawsuit points, in particular, to the 2016 disruption of a speech by Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, numerous incidents of anti-Jewish and anti-Israel speech on campus, as well as an incident in which the Jewish student organization Hillel was allegedly banned from a student fair.

Opinions about the lawsuit fall along predictable dividing lines. The editorial board of J., the Jewish News of Northern California, praised the suit and argued that the protesters at the Nir Barkat event had “trampled the free speech rights of Jewish students.” On the other hand, Dima Khalidi of Palestine Legal called the Barkat protest “political speech that is protected by the First Amendment” and said that “the complaint is going to fail.”

Both sides have a point. The lawsuit raises real concerns about the treatment of Jewish students at SFSU. But the plaintiffs seem to want it both ways: Even as the suit contends that SFSU is violating the free speech rights of Jewish students, it also demands that the university censor protected speech by Palestinian students and their allies, citing anti-Jewish harassment.

As Justice Thurgood Marshall wrote, “the freedom to speak and freedom to hear are inseparable; they are two sides of the same coin.” If, as the lawsuit alleges, SFSU officials told campus police to “stand down” while anti-Israel protesters disrupted Nir Barkat’s speech, the university may indeed have violated students’ First Amendment rights to invite and hear a speaker of their choosing.

Video footage of Barkat’s attempt to speak at SFSU last year shows protesters engaging in loud, sustained chanting while students attending the speech huddle around a seated Barkat in an attempt to hear him. While protest is indeed protected by the First Amendment (as is a normal level of “booing” and brief interruptions from the audience), the right to protest does not extend to the right to be so vocally disruptive, for such a prolonged period of time, that the speaker cannot be heard.

And if, as the suit alleges, the university allowed the Hillel student group to be excluded from tabling at a university-sponsored fair because of the organization’s viewpoint, that too could constitute a First Amendment violation at a public university like SFSU.

Moving from the First Amendment to the harassment claims, some of the speech cited by the plaintiffs may have crossed the line from protected speech into unprotected threats, such as counter-protesters allegedly yelling “get out or we will kill you” at Jewish students participating in a Hillel-sponsored peace rally.

Other parts of the lawsuit, however, point to examples of clearly protected speech and expression as grounds for the claim that a “hostile environment” exists for Jewish students on campus. In alleging that the university has been deliberately indifferent to a racially hostile environment, the plaintiffs point to examples of constitutionally protected political expression such as posters featuring a picture of a dead baby with the caption “Made in Israel—Palestinian Children Meat, Slaughtered According to Jewish Rites Under American License,” as well as students holding placards proclaiming “my heroes have always killed colonizers” and “resistance is not terrorism” alongside portraits of Leila Khaled, the first female airplane hijacker. It is not difficult to see why such speech would offend many students, but asking a government institution like SFSU to police this kind of political rhetoric in the name of preventing a “hostile environment” is a prescription for both First Amendment violations and political side-choosing.

In short: it’s complicated. If the truth of the allegations is proven in court, the plaintiffs have some very real grievances about some of the university’s conduct and, certainly, about what J. refers to as the “selective outrage” when it comes to the university’s response to Jewish students on campus versus other students who claim to feel silenced or threatened. But in other ways, the suit goes too far, citing constitutionally protected political speech and expression as examples of harassment.

This fight should never have had to go to court in the first place. A university campus should be a place where people who disagree about important issues can discuss their differences openly, not a place where opposing views are shouted down, threats are tossed across protest lines, and both sides work to suppress the speech of their opponents.

Read More on Reason

breaking, Headlines, News, Opinion, Reason, syndicated

‘Get Out or We Will Kill You’: Jewish Students Allege Censorship and Harassment in Campus Lawsuit

In a federal lawsuit filed last week, a group of Jewish plaintiffs allege that San Francisco State University has systematically turned a blind eye to—and in some instances actively facilitated—censorship and harassment of Jewish students and speakers on the public university’s campus. The lawsuit points, in particular, to the 2016 disruption of a speech by Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, numerous incidents of anti-Jewish and anti-Israel speech on campus, as well as an incident in which the Jewish student organization Hillel was allegedly banned from a student fair.

Opinions about the lawsuit fall along predictable dividing lines. The editorial board of J., the Jewish News of Northern California, praised the suit and argued that the protesters at the Nir Barkat event had “trampled the free speech rights of Jewish students.” On the other hand, Dima Khalidi of Palestine Legal called the Barkat protest “political speech that is protected by the First Amendment” and said that “the complaint is going to fail.”

Both sides have a point. The lawsuit raises real concerns about the treatment of Jewish students at SFSU. But the plaintiffs seem to want it both ways: Even as the suit contends that SFSU is violating the free speech rights of Jewish students, it also demands that the university censor protected speech by Palestinian students and their allies, citing anti-Jewish harassment.

As Justice Thurgood Marshall wrote, “the freedom to speak and freedom to hear are inseparable; they are two sides of the same coin.” If, as the lawsuit alleges, SFSU officials told campus police to “stand down” while anti-Israel protesters disrupted Nir Barkat’s speech, the university may indeed have violated students’ First Amendment rights to invite and hear a speaker of their choosing.

Video footage of Barkat’s attempt to speak at SFSU last year shows protesters engaging in loud, sustained chanting while students attending the speech huddle around a seated Barkat in an attempt to hear him. While protest is indeed protected by the First Amendment (as is a normal level of “booing” and brief interruptions from the audience), the right to protest does not extend to the right to be so vocally disruptive, for such a prolonged period of time, that the speaker cannot be heard.

And if, as the suit alleges, the university allowed the Hillel student group to be excluded from tabling at a university-sponsored fair because of the organization’s viewpoint, that too could constitute a First Amendment violation at a public university like SFSU.

Moving from the First Amendment to the harassment claims, some of the speech cited by the plaintiffs may have crossed the line from protected speech into unprotected threats, such as counter-protesters allegedly yelling “get out or we will kill you” at Jewish students participating in a Hillel-sponsored peace rally.

Other parts of the lawsuit, however, point to examples of clearly protected speech and expression as grounds for the claim that a “hostile environment” exists for Jewish students on campus. In alleging that the university has been deliberately indifferent to a racially hostile environment, the plaintiffs point to examples of constitutionally protected political expression such as posters featuring a picture of a dead baby with the caption “Made in Israel—Palestinian Children Meat, Slaughtered According to Jewish Rites Under American License,” as well as students holding placards proclaiming “my heroes have always killed colonizers” and “resistance is not terrorism” alongside portraits of Leila Khaled, the first female airplane hijacker. It is not difficult to see why such speech would offend many students, but asking a government institution like SFSU to police this kind of political rhetoric in the name of preventing a “hostile environment” is a prescription for both First Amendment violations and political side-choosing.

In short: it’s complicated. If the truth of the allegations is proven in court, the plaintiffs have some very real grievances about some of the university’s conduct and, certainly, about what J. refers to as the “selective outrage” when it comes to the university’s response to Jewish students on campus versus other students who claim to feel silenced or threatened. But in other ways, the suit goes too far, citing constitutionally protected political speech and expression as examples of harassment.

This fight should never have had to go to court in the first place. A university campus should be a place where people who disagree about important issues can discuss their differences openly, not a place where opposing views are shouted down, threats are tossed across protest lines, and both sides work to suppress the speech of their opponents.

Read More on Reason