Attorney General Jeff Sessions was on firm ground Tuesday when he gave a speech at Georgetown University denouncing college students and administrators who are hostile to speech with which they disagree.
Mr. Sessions criticized universities that have formal conduct policies that he said stifle free speech.
Mr Trump'scontroversial comments at a rally in Alabama sparked a wave of football protests on Sunday, with many NFL players across the United States and in London kneeling during the national anthem. "[Sessions] has proven himself over and over again to be against free speech, to be against justice, and today we take a knee".
Sessions told the story of one group of students who were jailed for passing out copies of the Constitution on a campus walkway, and cited a survey that found 40 percent of US colleges and universities have 'speech codes that substantially infringe on constitutionally protected speech'.
"Protesters are now routinely shutting down speeches and debates across the country in an effort to stop the forces that insufficiently conform to their views", Sessions said. Campuses are "transforming into an echo chamber of political correctness and homogenous thought, a shelter for fragile egos", he added.
Sessions also called the National Football League protests "a big mistake" that is "denigrating the symbols of our nation" and defended Trump's right to criticize private citizens' exercise of free speech, because "the President has free speech rights, too".
The case was brought by Georgia Gwinnett College student Chike Uzuegbunam, who said his First Amendment rights were violated when university officials told him he could not distribute fliers about his Christian faith unless he did so in one of the school's two "free speech expression areas", and even then he'd be required to get advance approval.
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Sessions spoke to an invitation-only crowd at Georgetown University's law school. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a nonprofit that defends the rights of people on college and university campuses, has given Georgetown a "red" rating and said it restricts freedom of speech.
Inside the hall where Sessions spoke, a line of students sitting near the back stood up and placed black tape over their mouths as the attorney general concluded his address.
We want to call out and talk to college presidents, deans, faculty, trustees, to say make sure that you're not discriminating in any way against people's right to speak or are discriminating against them academically or otherwise if they have the courage to defend their beliefs. Violent protests or the fear of such have led to the cancellation several planned speeches by conservatives at the University of California, Berkeley.
The Georgetown chapter of Young Democratic Socialists of America tweeted that they'll attend the protest. At one point, Sessions appeared to take a page out of President Donald Trump's book, drawing a freaky equivalence between protesters at Middlebury college, and the KKK. But organizers canceled the week's events.
"I do", Sessions responded.
Sessions also had a message on free speech for the protesters who were chanting outside the room.
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