Hey people, I just ten minutes ago came from the speech scheduled this evening at UMass by former Boston Herald columnist Don Feder on the issue of hate crimes and free speech. Ironically, the speech was unable to be delivered due to constant interuptions and insults from people in the audience who seemed to have come specfically to cause a disturbance.
I got a chance to speak with Feder for a few moments. He asked me whether I thought many people in the audience read the mostly conservative Boston Herald, and I had to be honest and tell him no. He kindly posed for this picture.
Security was tight, with police removing those who seemed likely to be disruptive before the speech began.
Campus media was on hand, shown here interviewing protestors.
No sooner did the speech begin than all hell broke loose as some audience members picked up their chairs, turning them around before reseating, thereby symbolically and literally turning their back on Feder.
From there the situation rapidly deteriorated as Feder was repeatedly interupted by ridiculing laughter and insulting taunts, until the police no longer tried to intervene, perhaps fearful of sparking a riot. Finally Feder stormed angrily from the podium in disgust, but was convinced by UMass Republican Club members to try one more time to give his speech.
Feder tried again to speak several times but it was hopeless. He finally left the stage for good, not before at one point shouting angrily at the protestors, "Hurray for you, you won you Nazis!" The protesters replied by cheering and chanting, "Don't come back!" The whole scene was Orwellian.
I wish I could have gotten some decent video, but the outbursts were sporadic, perhaps because of the menancing police movements that would cause the protestors to suddenly fall silent before I could video anything. Many other people had cameras, so perhaps something interesting will surface on YouTube in the coming days.
IMPORTANT UPDATE: Shocking video of the event has surfaced as predicted. See the best of it by clicking here.
Prominent community activists were in attendance. There on Feder's side was Springfield City Council candidate John Lysak and GOP activist Mike Franco.
Also present was Northampton's David Beyer, a key player in defeating the Hamp panhandling ordinance.
In all it was yet another embarrassment reflecting the difficulty UMass has in protecting free speech on campus, and is an incident certain to receive heavy play in the conservative media and beyond in the coming days.
Hampshire College's Proud Dead Legacy
Hampshire College in Amherst is a school with a rich history involving the Grateful Dead. In the 1980's the college served as an international clearing house for the trading of bootleg Grateful Dead tapes, and through the Hampshire College Grateful Dead Historical Society helped make Hampshire nationally known, at least in Deadhead circles. The head of the society was John Dworken (above) who got a degree from Hampshire in frisbee throwing and went on to write an award-winning encyclopedia of Grateful Dead live shows. According to his web biography:
Johnny is a two-time world flying disc (Frisbee) freestyle champion. He holds the world's only Bachelor of Arts degree awarded for "Professional Flying Disc
Entertainment and Education" studies from Hampshire College in Amherst, MA.
For ten years, Johnny edited and published Dupree's Diamond News, an internationally distributed rock music magazine that, at its' peak, enjoyed a circulation of 35,000. He is widely recognized as one of the world's foremost Grateful Dead and Jam Band scholars. His award winning 1800+ page, three volume encyclopedia - The Deadhead's Taping Compendium: A Guide To The Music Of The Grateful Dead On Tape, was published by Owl Books.
Johnny is also an harmonic overtone singer- able to sing three notes simultaneously. He appears on the compact disc recording entitled "Coalescence" with Spectral Voices, a renowned overtone choir from Connecticut. Johnny is also one of the world's most accomplished "circuit bending" musicians- an esoteric form of electronic music in which musical instruments are manipulated to make ethereal trance music.
For more than a decade Johnny served as the founding creative director of Speed of Light Productions, presenter of the world's most visionary multi-media light show Experiences. As Rabbi of the Phurst Church of Phun and as a minister in the Universal Life Church, Johnny officiates weddings and other such important life ceremonies for members of his extended community.
These days, Johnny dedicates many of his off hours to the study of alchemy and the directing of Mytheogenesis - a progressive think tank of philosophers, healers, and artists dedicated to creating widespread societal paradigm shifts in thinking and lifestyle through art and ritual. Johnny is a nationally renowned master of the tribal art of fire dancing. He specializes in dancing with unusual flaming props, such as platonic solids, and the choreography of large-scale fire dance ritual theater set to live music. For more than a quarter of a century Johnny has been a social and environmental activist, developing ways in which to transform the hard work of saving our world into a fun, attractive, graceful dance.
From the point of Light within the Mind of God
Let light stream forth into human minds.
Let Light descend on Earth.
From the point of Love within the Heart of God
Let love stream forth into human hearts.
May the Coming One return to Earth.
From the centre where the Will of God is known
Let purpose guide all little human wills -
The purpose which the Masters know and serve.
From the centre which we call the human race
Let the Plan of Love and Light work out
And may it seal the door where evil dwells.
Let Light and Love and Power restore the Plan on Earth.
Here is the cover of issue Number Two of the Grateful Dead Historical Society newsletter published in 1981:
Here is an advertisement by Dwork himself begging for Dead and Hot Tuna tapes.
This is a cartoon explaining why someone might choose to attend Hampshire College, as well as an advertisement for a well-known local mystic: (click to enlarge)
Now if Hampshire College could only get their graduate documentary filmaker Ken Burns to do a film about the Grateful Dead!
Rollcall of Shame
Seven Republicans defied their party and all logic by voting for the wasteful bailouts. Here they are:
Remember their names and make them pay at the polls.
Cold Rain and Snow
Today is one of those uniquely miserable New England weather days when it is too warm to really snow but the rain is like an ice bath. It was so raw out that even the usual circus in front of the Haymarket Cafe was absent.
One bit of good news in Hamp is the announcement that the gay store Pride and Joy has been purchased by out of town buyers.
Everyone was resigned that it would go out of business, so this is a pleasant surprise.
When I got to UMass today the football team was collecting bone marrow donors.
My brother used bone marrow techniques combined with stem cells to escape an otherwise incurable form of cancer.
I stopped for a snack at Earthfoods in the Student Union, where I came across this photo and recipe abandoned (probably on purpose) on one of the tables.
UMass, where you find the damnest things just lying around.