I think that breaking the law, at least in a country like the United States whose principles of governance I believe in, is something that should be done sparingly and with care.

Maybe I'm missing something, but I didn't realize being obnoxious at a speech constituted a crime. Can you elaborate a little more?


Yeah, what Happy said.



Evil Fizz, there's a lot of prosecutorial discretion involved. Without knowing the facts other than those related by Happy, a NY prosecutor (this was at Columbia University) might consider the following:

N.Y. Penal L. § 240.20 Disorderly conduct

A person is guilty of disorderly conduct when, with intent to cause public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, or recklessly creating a risk thereof:

1. He engages in fighting or in violent, tumultuous or threatening behavior; or

2. He makes unreasonable noise; or

3. In a public place, he uses abusive or obscene language, or makes an obscene gesture; or

4. Without lawful authority, he disturbs any lawful assembly or meeting of persons; or

5. He obstructs vehicular or pedestrian traffic; or

6. He congregates with other persons in a public place and refuses to comply with a lawful order of the police to disperse; or

7. He creates a hazardous or physically offensive condition by any act which serves no legitimate purpose.

Disorderly conduct is a violation.

True, it is a violation and not a crime (a violation is an offense, other than a "traffic infraction," for which a sentence to a term of imprisonment in excess of fifteen days cannot be imposed N.Y. Penal L. § 10.00(2)). It is possible that other charges could be leveled based on the facts.

The Happy Feminist

Yes, I was thinking of disorderly conduct. I would also broaden the idea behind civil disobedience to include violating rules and procedures of an institution one has volunteered to part of -- like staging a walk-out from class.


I'll have to reflect on this a little more, but I do wonder if the NY statute has some First Amendment problems.

Oh, by the way, the guy from the Minuteman Project was on the Colbert Report last night. I'll see if I can find it.


I only saw the video once quickly. But it looked like they came out to disrupt the speech, and then the Minutemen got physical.

The Happy Feminist

The section about in the disorderly conduct statute about abusive or obscene language may be a bit overbroad, but I am behind this part:

Without lawful authority, he disturbs any lawful assembly or meeting of persons

The Happy Feminist

It seems to me that the law is protecting lawful assemblies and meetings, i.e. protecting our ability to exercise our First Amendment rights.


FYI, the Minutemen are definitely a hate group, similiar to the KKK. Not that this necessarily changes you analysis. But it's worth asking if you'd support a similiar reaction to the KKK being asked to speak at a university.

The Happy Feminist

Trust me, I would be damn pissed if some student group at my college invited the KKK or a woman-hating group or any hate group. I am sure the students were right to be damn pissed that these Minutemen characters were there at Columbia. (Again, don't know much about these Minutemen but it looks like I'd probably really loathe them, and I am assuming for the sake of argument, that they are in fact really bad news.)

But no it wouldn't change my analysis. You protest outside, you write scathing editorials, and you publicize the fact that the College Republicans are basically inviting a hate group onto campus. But as a matter of both tactics and ethics, disrupting the actual speech isn't right.

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