GOP Speech Bill Sides With Alt-Right Activists

Senate Bill 18 to protect “free expression” from campus provocateurs

One of several American Vanguard flyers posted at Texas State in 2016
One of several American Vanguard flyers posted at Texas State in 2016

A GOP-backed bill that would compel Texas universities to protect "expression" on campus passed the Texas Senate State Affairs Com­mit­tee this Monday, March 11. Senate Bill 18 by state Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, would punish faculty, students, and student groups deemed to interfere with free speech, including blocking speakers from coming to campus. The bill allows members of the university community to "spontaneously and contemporaneously assemble or distribute written material" without a permit or other permission from the institution. "College students need to be exposed to all ideas. I don't care how liberal or conservative they are. Sometimes we feel offended by what someone else says. That's just too bad in my book," said Huffman. Making clear whose side was being taken, state Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, said she remembered when the "other end of the [political] spectrum was concerned" with this.

SB 18 comes after waves of bigoted and fascist literature have washed over Texas campuses since 2016, when a group called American Vanguard put up white supremacist posters at Texas State University in San Marcos with calls to "imagine an America without Muslims." Similar incidents happened at Rice, SMU, North Texas, and UT-Dallas, and in August 2017, Texas A&M University canceled a rally featuring neo-Nazi Richard Spencer scheduled for Sept. 11, citing safety concerns. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick responded to the string of alt-right provocations with a Senate hearing to "ascertain any restrictions on Freedom of Speech rights that Texas students face in expressing their views on campus along with freedoms of the press, religion, and assembly."

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Senate Bill 18, Joan Huffman, free speech, American Vanguard, alt-right, Richard Spencer

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