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Pressure Groups

Library Censorship Overturned
Update on Events

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Feb 13: Censorship Overturned

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In the News:

Greenwich Citizen: What Our Taxes to Israel are Funding

Greenwich Post: Alison Weir’s Letter to the Editor

Greenwich Post: Controversy draws more people to Greenwich Library talk

Fairfield County Weekly: First Amendment Victorious

New York Times: Speech on the Mideast Brings Opinions to a Boil

Greenwich Time: Lecture lives up to billing

Library Journal: Greenwich Library, CT, Rescinds Permission for Pro-Palestinian Speaker, Then Reverses Course

Greenwich Post: Controversial speaker gets go-ahead from library

Newsday: Greenwich Library reverses course on Mideast lecture ban

Greenwich Time: Speaker vows to continue after Greenwich Library cancels lecture

Boston Globe: Greenwich Library in fracas over Mideast lectures

Alison Weir
Alison Weir was scheduled to speak at the Greenwich Library on February 14th at 7 PM and February 16th at 10:30 AM.

Both events were extremely exciting. The auditorium (which held 350 people) was nearly full for both events, and many in the audiences were new to the issue. In addition, the talks were attended and reported on by local TV, radio, and newspaper reporters.

As an opinion piece in the Sunday, February 18th New York Times reported about the first talk, “When the speech ended, Ms. Weir was met with thunderous applause, and across the room there was a widespread sense of satisfaction that someone was saying what needed to be said.”

If anything, the second presentation was even more enthusiastically received. Many attendees came up after the talks to thank Alison for her work and to ask additional questions. We have also received numerous emails thanking us for providing such fact-filled, informative presentations.

A small rude and disruptive contingent of the audience – at most 15-20% – dominated the Q&A at the first event. While this was disturbing, it appeared that their incivility did their cause far more harm than good. Their questions, of course, were valuable, as they provided an opportunity to clear up many misconceptions on the issue.

Library Censorship Overturned

February 13th – The Greenwich Library has reversed its initial decision to cancel Alison Weir's presentations and they are going forward as planned, Thursday evening at 7 PM and Saturday morning at 10:30 AM (February 14th and 16th respectively).

Even more exciting, they have decided that they will give us, at no cost, the large auditorium that holds 368 people instead of the small meeting room (60-person capacity) we had initially reserved. They feel that given the amount of publicity that has been generated over this event, the larger space will be required. We hope as many people as possible will attend! (By the way, they are also providing, at their cost, a technician to manage the excellent audio visual equipment that comes with the room.)

During our meeting with library officials, they told us that they had reversed their decision after consulting with their attorney, who explained to them that their stated purpose for canceling the talks -- that they allegedly violated "public sensitivities" -- was illegal under the First Amendment.

In addition, they explained to us that one of the motivating factors in their original decision to cancel the event was information they had been given that the ADL would become involved and that there would be a need for a "large police presence."

There has been significant press coverage of this controversy (see above) -- it was the lead front page story in the local daily newspaper, was featured on a radio news report this morning, and is being aired tonight on a local television news broadcast.

Library Censors If Americans Knew

GROUP CHALLENGES GREENWICH LIBRARY CENSORSHIP

A group of local citizens is challenging the decision by some officials at the Greenwich Library to cancel two upcoming talks that had been in the works since January.

The presentations are entitled “Israel-Palestine: Beyond the Headlines,” and were to be given by Alison Weir, a media critic and former journalist who has traveled throughout the West Bank and Gaza. Weir is executive director of If Americans Knew, a nonprofit organization that specializes in media analysis.

According to library officials, after an advertisement announcing the talks ran in local papers, the library received some phone calls and emails from people complaining. The library director, assistant director, and president of the board of trustees then decided to cancel it, determining that it would violate “public sensitivities.” Officials refuse to say how many people contacted them, stating only “some were old friends.”

“This is absolutely ridiculous,” says event organizer John McGillion, of Hunting Ridge Road. “It is my right as a citizen of Greenwich to hold an event at the library. Allowing people to censor a program is outrageous and illegal. The whole point of a library is to promote open exchange of ideas.”

McGillion states that “Ms. Weir has spoken all over the country – at Harvard Law School, the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Stanford, Vassar, you name it. She’s given two briefings on Capitol Hill and spoken to various think tanks and international conferences. We’re lucky to have her.”

McGillion considers the decision “unethical, hasty and illogical.” He says, “First of all, censoring a program violates their own professional ethics. The American Library Association Bill of Rights is absolutely clear on this. It says: ‘Libraries which make exhibit spaces and meeting rooms available to the public they serve should make such facilities available on an equitable basis, regardless of the beliefs or affiliations of individuals or groups requesting their use.’

“Furthermore, even if it were permissible to screen out certain content, which it’s not, how in the world did library officials think they had any idea what the ‘public sensitivities’ of Greenwich citizens are? Think about it logically: 99 percent of the people are probably happy or neutral that the program is going to take place. Only the one percent who oppose it would bother to pick up the phone.”

As word has gotten out about the cancellation, the library has begun receiving numerous calls in favor of the talk being held as scheduled.

McGillion says that since the decision to cancel was made quickly, without consulting library trustees or the public, he considers it “temporary.”

“As far as I’m concerned,” he says, “the program will go on. We will be at the library Thursday and Saturday and Ms Weir will give the talk she was invited to Greenwich to give. Then the people of Fairfield County can evaluate the information for themselves, without a small number of partisans denying them this opportunity.”

ADVERTISEMENT TEXT:

"Ms. Weir presents a powerful, well documented view of the Middle East today. She is intelligent, careful, and critical. American policy makers would benefit greatly from hearing her first-hand observations and attempting to answer the questions she poses. This is an intellectual, thought-provoking, and worthwhile presentation."
- Thomas Campbell, Former US Senator (R-CA), Dean of Haas School of Business, University of California

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