WASHINGTON - U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions spoke out in favor of free speech rights on college campuses while condemning NFL players who choose to kneel during the national anthem during a visit at Georgetown University's Law School.
However, Sessions’ visit sparked a protest on campus by students, faculty and staff. Some in the crowd said what upsets them most is the fact so many of them were not invited to be in the audience of the invitation-only event.
“He is the attorney general. He is welcome to speak here anytime, but it should be open to the student body as a whole,” said Georgetown law student Daniel Blauser.
Sessions came to the law school to speak about free speech on college campuses.
"Starting today, the Department of Justice will do its part in this work,” Sessions said. “We will enforce federal law, defend free speech and protect students' free expression from whatever end of the spectrum it may come.”
The attorney general was asked about President Donald Trump's recent crusade against NFL players who have taken a knee during the national anthem before games. It is something critics of Trump see as an attack on the players' First Amendment rights.
"I agree it is a big mistake to protest in that fashion,” said Sessions. "I guess it is up to the owners and the people who create these games and pay for the ball fields to decide what you can do on the ball field. But the freedom of every individual player is paramount under the Constitution. It's protected and we have to protect it."
Sessions’ speech on Tuesday is in response to what has happened at the University of California, Berkeley and other college campuses – with controversial speakers disinvited after student-led protests.
"This is not right,” said Sessions. “This is not the great tradition of America, and yet school administrators have bent to this behavior. The effect is to coddle and encourage it.”
What do Georgetown professors, who joined in on the protest, think about this?
“What we are objecting to is we just found out about this yesterday, and the faculty wanted to attend and was told there were no more seats left,” said Georgetown law professor John Copacino. “So there was no peaceful, intellectual way to voice opposition to many, many of the things that Jeff Sessions has done, and this is the alternative."