“charges could result in a $50 fine or up to 30 days in jail”
Two students from the University of Connecticut are currently under arrest because they used racial slurs. That may be tasteless and inappropriate, but at the end of the day, they’re just words.
These students were arrested for saying words.
They were walking through a parking lot and claimed they were playing a game by shouting vulgar words. Someone heard them and took a video.
Ben Kesslen reports at NBC News:
2 white UConn students arrested after video showed them shouting racial slurs
Two white students at the University of Connecticut were arrested Monday after video that showed them shouting racial slurs prompted campus protests, university police told NBC News.
Jarred Mitchell Karal, 21, and Ryan Gilman Mucaj, 21, face charges of ridicule on account of race, color, or creed. They were released with a court date set for Oct. 30 at Rockville Superior Court in Vernon, Connecticut.
Karal and Mucaj’s charges could result in a $50 fine or up to 30 days in jail.
NBC sent emails to the two men Tuesday morning requesting comment but did not immediately hear back.
Campus police learned of the incident from social media footage showing Karal and Mucaj shouting epithets in an apartment complex parking lot, a university spokesperson told NBC News. The men were playing a game that involved yelling vulgar words, university police said, and then started shouting epithets. Karal and Mucaj were walking with a third man, whom police said did not shout epithets and was not charged.
Jon Street of Campus Reform explains how the situation led to arrests:
The video prompted the UConn NAACP chapter to pen a letter to the editor of the campus newspaper, The Daily Campus, calling on officials “to fully investigate this incident and apply the proper justice.” Following those calls, the university confirmed to Campus Reform Monday that two of the three men allegedly seen in the video were arrested under a Connecticut state statute that makes it a crime to “ridicule” certain persons.
“Any person who, by his advertisement, ridicules or holds up to contempt any person or class of persons, on account of the creed, religion, color, denomination, nationality or race of such person or class of persons, shall be guilty of a class D misdemeanor,” the statute states.
In this short video report from WFSB News, you will see that this sparked campus protests and demands from student activists:
Adam Steinbaugh of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) provides background on the statute used to justify the arrest, and calls this unconstitutional:
The Connecticut statute is a rarely-enforced relic dating to 1917 and intended to address advertisements for businesses, not every use of derogatory language. There are scattered references to charges under the statute in news reports and legal databases, but no substantive analysis of the statute’s constitutional viability has been undertaken by any court, much less any appellate court.
Why is it rarely enforced? Because it is plainly unconstitutional. The use of racially-derogatory language — without more — is protected by the First Amendment.
This incident is just the latest example in a disturbing trend of criminalizing speech. Last month, New York made it illegal to use the term “illegal alien” in a derogatory manner. This week, a lawmaker in Massachusetts is proposing outlawing use of the word “bitch.”
How much longer are we going to tolerate this constant erosion of our rights?
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