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Public Protest: University of Missouri

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Meghan Mahar: November 17, 2015

 

The University of Missouri made national headlines recently when a group that calls themselves “Concerned Student 1950,” exercised their first amendment right by forming a public protest on campus.

The protest was held to raise awareness for racial issues on campus.

The protests have been held several times on the campus over the last few months. They had every right to do so because, like all Americans, the U.S. Constitution grants them that right.

As reported by the New York Times, President Timothy M. Wolfe, and chancellor, R. Bowen Loftin, resigned after the racial controversies came to light. Apparently people on campus broke into cheers when the news of the resignation broke.

In a video posted to The New York Times website, Tim Tai, a photography student at the University of Missouri and a freelance photographer for ESPN, attempted to the document one of the protests. Tai endured some trouble once he got close to the protesters: the video shows the protesters immediately putting their hands in the air to block him from taking photographs and demanding him to leave.

Melissa Click, an assistant professor at the school could be heard in the video yelling, “You need to back off.” When the person shooting the video, Mark Schierbecker approached Click, she grabbed the camera and then yelled to the crowd, “Who wants to help me get this reporter out of here? I need some muscle over here.”

The point of a protest is to be heard and the best way to be heard is through the media. Freedom of the press is another right covered under the First Amendment. Refusing Tai and the other reporters access to document the activity is an infringement of that right. A protest cannot be done in the public eye and then have its members claim the rights to privacy. Once an event is made public, the media can document it as they see fit.

Tai told The New York Times “We’re documenting historic events with our photographs…when people are crying and hugging when Wolfe resigns it becomes a personal issue that people all over the country can connect with…it’s my job to help connect those people to what’s going on.”

Throughout the video, Tai can be heard arguing that he had the right to be there. The protesters were acting hypocritical. They wanted the media to respect their rights but would not do the same in return. This occurrence was a clear violation of the First Amendment.

Following the incident, Click who had a complaint filed against her by Schierbecker, has resigned her courtesy appointment with the journalism school. She does however still remain an assistant professor at the university. She has since released an apology statement to the journalism students and all those affected.

Another faculty member, Janna Basler, the school’s Director of Greek life, has been placed on administrative leave while her actions in the incident are investigated.

Too often journalists are viewed as the enemy, so much that people overlook just how helpful journalists and the media can be. When a journalist reports on a story, that information can end up on television, in a newspaper or all over the internet where many people will see it and most likely pass it along to people they know.

The word spreads. When journalists are restricted and blocked from doing their job, they can’t report and therefore others aren’t informed of what’s going on, which makes the idea of a protest pointless.

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