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Confrontation at UC Berkeley dean's house sparks debate over free speech 

A Palestinian American law student and a UC Berkeley dean are speaking out after a protest that took place during a dinner for law students at the dean’s home.

A backyard dinner to celebrate graduating UC Berkeley law students took an unexpected turn this week when law student Malak Afaneh began an unannounced speech intended to discuss the war on Gaza.

“I hadn’t even talked about Palestine yet. All I said was a Muslim greeting in Arabic,” Afaneh said.

The video shows law professor Catherine Fisk, who owns the home with her husband, UC Berkeley dean Erwin Chemerinsky, getting into an altercation with Afaneh and telling her to leave.

Afaneh said that she believes the professor crossed the line.

“Never in any world did I think a UC Berkeley law professor, anyone in that matter would go ahead and think it’s appropriate to lay their hands on me,” she said.

In a statement Chemerinsky said the following:

“I am enormously sad that we have students who are so rude as to come into my home, in my backyard, and use this social occasion for their political agenda. My home is not a forum for free speech.”

When it comes to free speech, legal analyst Steven Clark said the incident may not fall into the category.

“You have a first amendment right to say what you want in the public square but that doesn’t apply to someone’s private residence,” he said.

During an interview on CNN, Cheriminsky claims he’s being targeted because he’s Jewish and not for his stance on the war in Gaza.

“I’ve said nothing in support of what Netanyahu is doing in Israel. I actually said nothing in any public forum about what’s going on in regards to Gaza,” he said.

UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Crist weighed in and released this statement:

“While our support for free speech is unwavering, we cannot condone using a social occasion at a person’s private residence as a platform for protest.”

As for next steps, Afaneh plans to file a complaint against the university for discrimination and may take additional legal action.


Source: NBC Bay Area

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