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Intrepidation

Convicted terrorist to speak at UMass

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AMHERST, Mass. -- The University of Massachusetts-Amherst is planning to let a convicted terrorist give a speech at the school.

A convicted domestic terrorist whose scheduled speech at the University of Massachusetts was canceled has been reinvited to campus by a faculty group against the objections of school administration.

Raymond Levasseur of Waldo, Maine, a former leader of the United Freedom Front, is scheduled to speak at the university on Thursday night. The group was a violent anti-government group linked to more than 20 bombings along the east coast, including the Suffolk County courthouse back in 1976.

He and two co-defendants were also acquitted of attempting to overthrow the U.S. government in a high-profile trial in Springfield in 1989.

On Thursday, Levasseur will leave a Maine halfway house to speak despite the protests of the governor, the head of the school, and some police groups.

"I've brought all the pressure that I can bring to bear that is consistent with my role and the university's role, I have been clear that I think it's a bad idea," said Governor Deval Patrick.

The University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries had originally invited Levasseur to speak at a forum on social unrest. The speech was canceled after objections from victims' families, and Gov. Deval Patrick. He was reinvited by a faculty group spearheaded by UMass Professor Sara Lennox.

Citing academic freedom, the school said there is not much they can do about the invitation.

"I think people should be allowed to speak their minds, and as college students, part of the education of society is how we feel about what people are telling us," said a student.

University officials said Tuesday they will allow the rescheduled speech in the interest of academic freedom, even though they find the invitation "repugnant" and won't allow state funds to be used.

"As a university, we defend the principles of free speech and of academic freedom. However, we deplore the example Levasseur sets for our students and the university community," UMass President Jack Wilson said in a statement.

"While we see no legitimate way to prevent this event from taking place, Chancellor (Robert) Holub and I have instructed that no sate funds be used to support this activity. We know that Gov. Patrick strongly supports us in this position," Wilson said in a separate statement released later Tuesday.

Amy Lambiaso, a spokeswoman for the State Police Association of Massachusetts, said the organization may organize a protest.

The Massachusetts chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, however, disagreed. The group praised efforts by students and faculty leaders to ensure that the speech goes forward "despite calls for censorship."

"Whatever you think of this particular speaker, his invitation to speak shouldn't be revoked because someone objects," said Carol Rose, executive director of ACLU of Massachusetts. "This situation is an important reminder that we must remain true to the principles of free speech and the marketplace of ideas -- even unpopular ideas -- upon which our state universities, and nation, were built."

Levasseur also came under fire when he helped organize an art exhibit at the University of Southern Maine in September 2006. Levasseur said at the time he does not think public universities should back down when pressured by corporations and police.

Levasseur did not immediately return messages left at his home Tuesday.

(Copyright © 2009 Sunbeam Television. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

http://www1.whdh.com/news/articles/local/BO129218/

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Hmmm.

I am immediately left with two questions by the article.

1) What was this guy convicted of ? They mention an acquittal, but never substantiate the "convicted terrorist" language in the headline.

2) What does he plan to talk about? Revolution? It isn't clear at all.

It just leaves me without enough information to form an opinion.

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Whatever you think of this particular speaker, his invitation to speak shouldn't be revoked because someone objects," said Carol Rose, executive director of ACLU of Massachusetts. "This situation is an important reminder that we must remain true to the principles of free speech and the marketplace of ideas -- even unpopular ideas -- upon which our state universities, and nation, were built."

Good point there....

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Let him speak. I'm tired of the PC BS about offending people, be they liberal, conservative, muslim, christian, or whatever.

Chris

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Generally I'm with you guys, but the glaring omission of pertinent facts from the article bugs me.

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I agree camino.

but i thought it was gonna be something funny...if they just left out convicted, it could be any of the last several administrations. lol

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I'm sorta with Camino on this one, there's not a whole hell of a lot of information there for me to make a judgment on.

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