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Students Protest Advertisement By Stealing Brown Newspapers

By Andy Golodny

THE BROWN DAILY HERALD

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (UNIVERSITY WIRE) -- A coalition of student groups that stole nearly 4,000 copies of The Brown Daily Herald Friday said it plans to continue to take action against The Herald until the newspaper meets its demands, according to a press release the group issued Saturday.

“Our action was to remove The Herald from on campus locations of distribution,” the release said. “We will continue to be active until the paper meets our demands.”

The coalition had demanded The Herald donate the $725 cost of a full-page advertisement to the Third World community and give the coalition a free full-page ad.

On Saturday the coalition added two new demands: that The Herald remove the word “Brown” from its name, and that it cease distributing copies on campus.

The Herald declined to honor any of the group’s demands.

The coalition’s dispute with The Herald grew into a massive campus controversy and garnered national media attention over the weekend following the coalition’s action on Friday.

Over the weekend The Boston Globe, the Providence Journal-Bulletin and the Associated Press ran stories on the theft. Representatives from The Herald and the coalition also appeared on NBC’s “Today” show Sunday morning.

Already the controversy has sparked the creation of at least one rival campus group, Students of Color Against Censorship (SCAC).

“SCAC was formed to provide a voice for minority students who are disenchanted with the coalition’s actions,” the group said in a statement Sunday night. “The group is growing very rapidly, as dozens of students have already expressed their support.”

The group plans to purchase an advertisement in The Herald opposing the coalition’s actions.

The president of the Providence chapter of the NAACP, Cliff Montiero, was quoted in the Providence Journal-Bulletin Saturday supporting The Herald.

“The ad is a wake-up call that freedom isn’t free,” Montiero said. “I don’t think it’s right for people to steal the newspaper ... I think the freedom of the press needs to continue.

“The reparations claim is one more attempt to turn African Americans into victims,” he said.

The Undergraduate Council of Students (UCS) offered to help the coalition pay for a full-page ad in rebuttal, but the coalition has not yet accepted the offer.

The coalition’s seizure of the newspapers came in response to a controversial advertisement The Herald printed in its March 13 issue.

The ad, purchased and written by conservative commentator David Horowitz, lists ten reasons why Horowitz feels the payment of monetary reparations for slavery is a bad idea.

After Herald editors and business staff refused to meet the group’s demands, the coalition on Friday seized nearly the entire press run of The Herald from its campus distribution points.

The Herald reprinted 1,000 copies of Friday’s paper and distributed them Saturday afternoon. Staff members stood inside the lobby of a campus dining hall, handing papers to students as they entered the dining hall.

Inside the paper they included a typed statement explaining the disappearance of the newspapers and apologizing to readers for the inconvenience.

In a statement on Friday The Herald condemned the coalition’s actions.

“We cannot condone the actions our critics have taken against us,” the statement read. “The recent theft of thousands of copies of The Herald from Brown’s campus was an unacceptable attempt to silence our voice.”

On Friday, coalition members left a statement of their own in place of the newspaper.

“We are using this action as an opportunity to show our community at Brown that our newspaper is not accountable to its supposed constituents,” the flier read. “It is a newspaper run by Brown-student opportunists and careerists who are completely unaccountable to the University’s aims and its student body.”

The coalition took all the copies of The Herald from more than ten locations, leaving the campus with almost no copies of the newspaper.

Only the newsrack at The Herald offices remained full, despite two attempts by coalition members to take the copies in the rack.

On Saturday, Brown University issued a statement in support of The Herald.

“Consistent with its commitment to the free exchange of ideas,” Interim President Sheila Blumstein said in the statement, “the University recognizes and supports The Herald’s right to publish any material it chooses, even if that material is objectionable to members of the campus community.

“The Office of Student Life will review information concerning these incidents,” she said.

The coalition’s seizure of the papers sparked a flurry of criticism from campus free-speech advocates and others on campus.

“This is the worst possible thing the coalition could have done, both to themselves and to free discourse at the University,” said Carl Takei, president of the Brown ACLU. “I am saddened and very upset with their actions.”

“Stealing the paper isn’t conducive to a constructive dialogue, which is what we need right now,” said Megan Zwiebel, secretary of the Brown ACLU.

The Herald’s disappearance from campus newsstands was also fodder for conversation and debate around campus over the weekend.

The number of hits to a campus online message board shot up by 50 percent Friday.

“We usually receive about 60,000 hits per day,” said Evan Metcalfe, who heads the board’s maintenance team, “but (Friday) we got 90,000. Traffic usually goes down on a Friday, so it’s surprising that it went up.”

The Herald’s Web site, Heraldsphere, went down temporarily Friday after a barrage of hits, and all weekend users had difficulty accessing the site as it experienced a 400 percent traffic increase.

The Horowitz advertisement has stirred controversy at college newspapers across the nation. Horowitz sent the ad to 46 other university newspapers, and of those only nine printed it. Three swiftly issued apologies.

The Herald’s general manager, Nicholas Russo, said the paper does not censor advertisements based on their political content. He said the decision to run the Horowitz ad was in keeping with the newspaper’s advertising policy.

The Herald is considering legal action in response to the thefts of its papers.

Supporters of the coalition, including Amit Sarin, Asmara Ghebremichael and Robert Herreria, refused to comment for this story.