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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Silent protest organized against Republican speaker

Published: March 24, 2006
Section: News

Brian Camenker spoke at a Brandeis Republican sponsored event in the Shapiro Campus Center Wednesday. A silent protest was held as a response to his appearance.

Camenker is the President of Mass Resistance, a statewide organization engaging in Massachusetts politics since 1994 with the purpose helping thousands of citizens become politically active. The Mass Resistance Article 8 website and corresponding blog put forth anti-gay views including an opposition to same-sex marriage, homosexual activist recruitment of our children in the public schools, and the passing of Article 8 to the Massachusetts Constitution removing the judges of the State Supreme Court who recognized a Constitutional right to marriage equality in the Goodridge case.

Camenkers presence resulted in a protest by Triskelion, the Brandeis University student LGBT/queer alliance. Alice Ittelson 08, an organizer of the protest, explains that the protests purpose was to silently send the message that an individual who espouses hate-speech has no place on the Brandeis campus.

The protest consisted of a large number of Trisk protesters filling the room. After Mr. Camenkers presentation began, protestors started to gradually trickle out. As each left, a piece of paper was left on their chairs stating, This individual does not support hate speech on the Brandeis campus or in the greater world.

Beginning at 7:30, Trisk members and other protesters began to line up in the hallways adjacent to the Multi-purpose room, some holding signs saying such things as proud to be poisonous. As the room was being prepared, both students and event organizers waited outside. One student asked Camenker, So this talk isnt about gay marriage? to which he responded Not at all.

Around 8:10 the room was opened and people took their seats and the room was gradually filled. Robbie Schwartz 08, President of the Brandeis College Republicans, began by saying, Id like everyone to please remain civil and thanked everyone for attending whether they were protestors or not.

Richard Wheeler, a representative of the Republican Jewish Coalition, gave some opening remarks about what their organizations goal is, which is to promote a Jewish viewpoint in the Republican Party and to provide forums but not to lobby. He stated that gay marriage was not on the agenda for the night and addressed the presence of the protesters with the walk-out plan, characterizing the action as rude. He asked for attendees to stay and listen then participate in a question and answer session after the presentation.

Mr. Camenker opened by recalling his last speech at Tufts University. We had a very provocative topic and it was homosexuality and health issues. He continued that campus police there informed him that he would only be allowed to speak if they hired several guards. However, everything was quiet, the only outburst were 2 faculty members. He stressed that he thinks it is vital that people hear the other side of some of these contentious issues.

Camenker then began his presentation by explaining his youth growing up in the south and political views resulting from college. One early point was that he believes that Jews are more susceptible to these ideas (Marxism, social justice) and taking them up then others. He quoted George Orwell while discussing Jews becoming Marxists in America as Eastern Europe suffered under such political regimes. Camenker then moved forward by stating that the Nazi movement was completely rational because they believed what they were doing was right and rational.

Other topics that he touched upon include abortion, affirmative action, and homosexuality. When explaining abortion, Camenker explained how he believes it has become a legal right. Countering abortions legality he stated that it is not rational or a choice because you cannot choose who gets born and who does not get born. Discussion of affirmative action explained his experiences in the segregated south and his views that we need to hold everyone to the same standard.

The final topic was homosexuality, although the purpose of the presentation was not to be gay marriage itself. Camenker touched upon the sense and rationality of the existence of queer resource centers, the lack of finding of a gay gene by scientists, and comparing homosexuality to alcoholism and pornography addiction. He elaborated that there is something wrong with colleges telling you this is ok.

Additionally, Camenker compared such socio-political views to the Opium Wars in China. He ended with a comparison of society to an airplane. It is natural for it to crash, but everything must work correctly for it to fly, said Camenker.

Following the presentation the floor was opened to a question and answer question. Several protestors asked questions and gave comments regarding Camenkers views. One questioner addressed a purpose of affirmative action with regard to institutional issues. An exchange between the two occurred when the questioner did not feel that Camenker addressed her concerns.

Another question regarded mutual respect to homosexuals on their side of the issues as he espoused respect for opposing views. Another questioner near tears commented on his equating homosexuals with alcoholics and pornography addicts. The last questioner paused at first, then after being asked if he had a question stated, I dont even know where to start with you.

Schwartz after the event stated that I think it was really nice and respectful that a lot of them (protesters) did stay and were willing to hear him out even if they virulently disagreed with him. He stated that the presentation went pretty well, There were a bunch of very controversial issues, many of which I highly disagree with, but I think its a good thing we brought this debate up. He ended with, I feel sorry if any got offended by it, but such is discussion.

Ittelson noted that only about one-fifth of the audience was present by the end of his speech, and the room was filled to capacity at the beginning. Trisk handed out many fliers and stickers while several individuals stood outside of the room with signs until Camenker left the building.

While the stated goal of the presentation was to stress the importance of introducing new ideas and the dangers of political indoctrination by organizations, the speech and questions gradually became a heated discussion about homosexuality. Camenker, before the start of the conference, remarked that he may be feeling provoked to talk about the gay issue. Then he stated that he is attending a Mass Equality forum on Thursday so they dont think Im a bigot.