As the BDS and the anti-BDS movements unfold on campus, they promise to offer some of the most interesting legal challenges in the realm of academic freedom, free speech and libel law.
A recent episode that took place on the campus of Ohio University is a case in point. On September 10, 2014, four Jewish students protested an anti-divestment event where the president of the Student Senate, Megan Marzec presented a “blood bucket challenge,” a play on the popular ice bucket challenge. The students urged Marzec to resign, disrupted the event and refused to leave, leading to their arrest.
Each of the students was offered to plead to a minor misdemeanor charge and pay a $100 fine, but they all refused. They faced trial, but the judge dismissed the case on technicality grounds that the students did not receive a speedy trial for a fourth degree misdemeanor, defined under Ohio law as 60 days.
Historically, the tactic of disrupting meetings has been the prerogative of the pro-Palestinian activists. Should an Ohio University-type protest spread among Jewish students, it may create even a bigger dilemma for university authorities anxious to avoid legal problems.
Ironically, this strategy may actually force college authorities to change their traditional reluctance to curb some well-documented cases of anti-Israeli events. These incidents were normally defended on the grounds of academic freedom, but the Ohio strategy would force a uniform standard. As the old saying goes “what is good for the goose is good for the gander.”
Charges dropped against anti-divestment protesters
Ohio University students, arrested after disrupting student senate meeting, dodge jail time
BY JTA March 9, 2015, 5:07 pm
Charges against four Jewish Ohio University students for disrupting a student senate meeting with a protest against divestment reportedly have been dropped.
The students – Jonah Yulish, Maxwell Peltz, Rebecca Sebo and Gabriel Sirkin – faced up to 30 days in jail and a $250 fine after being arrested on September 10 for staging a protest of senate president Megan Marzec’s “blood bucket challenge” video calling for the university to divest from companies doing business in Israel. Their protest, which called for Marzec’s resignation, ended when the Ohio University Police Department arrested them.
Each student was offered the chance to plead guilty to a minor misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct and pay a $100 fine, but all refused. The students have been charged with disturbing a lawful meeting, a fourth-degree misdemeanor charge.
A jury trial had been set to begin in Athens County Municipal Court on March 10. The charges were dismissed last week after motions filed by the students’ lawyers since the students did not receive a speedy trial. In the case of a fourth degree misdemeanor, a speedy trial under Ohio law is 60 days, though extensions are possible.
“I think it’s prophetic that Judge (William) Grim dismissed the charges against our clients erev Purim [Purim eve]. In light of what we perceived as anti-Semitic charges, Judge Grim determined that justice should prevail and they should be freed,” attorney Larry Zukerman told the Cleveland Jewish News.