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‘Free, free pro-Palestinian speech!’ Suspended Columbia students must be reinstated, radical attorney says

BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | Radical attorney Stanley Cohen plans to sue Columbia University to force it to rescind the suspensions of four students who recently took part in a pro-Palestinian on-campus event.

According to Cohen, initially 16 students were suspended, but he was able to get most of the suspensions dropped.

“We engaged in a process that resulted in 12 students being reinstated,” he said.

Asked how exactly he got the university to change its stance, he simply said, “Lawyering.”

As for the other four individuals, Cohen said he is getting set to take the case, which he is doing pro bono, to New York State Supreme Court.

However, The Columbia Spectator reported that a total of six students were originally suspended, of which two have been reinstated.

“I can’t speak for the Spectator,” Cohen said. “I spoke to 16 students who were suspended — the grand total was initially 16 — unless I was hallucinating about it and spent 40 hours talking to ghosts.”

At any rate, four students remain suspended.

Stanley Cohen and Lynne Stewart at New York State Supreme Court in 1993. (Photo by John Penley)

The event in question was an “unauthorized” March 24 teach-in on the history of Palestinian resistance attended by 20 to 30 students in the basement of a campus building. According to Cohen, the students were not suspended for attending the meeting, which was dubbed “Resistance 101,” but rather for refusing to “provide information for a host of student activities.”

According to the Columbia Spectator, the university charged that the event featured a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a U.S.-designated terrorist organization.

Ultimately, though, the university is cracking down on free speech, Cohen asserted.

“Speech, no matter how unpopular it may be, is the essence of academia,” he stressed. “Protest against Zionism in Israel is pure protected speech.  … If Jewish students are made uncomfortable by it, f— them!

“Speech is supposed to make you uncomfortable,” he continued. “This is not lighting candles and kumbaya. … All speech is protected unless the imminent intent is to commit violence — like shouting ‘Fire!’ in a crowded movie theater.”

“These are students that have been targeted for activism,” he said. “It had nothing to do with the teach-in.”

Similarly, Cohen scoffed at 10 Cooper Union students who recently sued the elite East Village school for allegedly failing to protect them and their classmates from anti-Semitism during an Oct. 25, 2023, protest by pro-Palestinian students.

“They peed their pants because there were people saying, ‘Death to Israel,'” he said. “They were butt hurt. … I have no sympathy for people that are hurt by words. Zero.”

Stanley Cohen and East Village activist John Penley in Tompkins Square Park with a “Pigs Out of the Park” T-shirt. (Courtesy John Penley)

Cohen, who grew up Orthodox Jewish in Port Chester, NY, has represented members of the terrorist organizations Hamas and Hezbollah, as well as a relative of Osama bin Laden, the 9/11-attack mastermind, and Sheikh Abdul Rahman, the mastermind of the 1983 World Trade Center bombing. He represented Rahman a.k.a. the “Blind Sheikh” along with late fellow radical attorneys William Kunstler and Lynne Stewart. In connection with that case, Stewart was convicted of conspiracy and providing material support to terrorists, and sentenced to jail time.

A former East Village resident, Cohen in the 1980s and ’90s defended protesters who clashed with police in the Tompkins Square Park riots, as well as residents of the park’s Tent City and squatters in their battles to avoid eviction by the city.

Asked his opinion on Israel’s invasion of Gaza, Cohen said, “It’s genocide. I’ve been accusing Israel of genocide for 50 years.”

In 2014, he pleaded guilty to impeding the I.R.S. tax code and was sentenced to 18 months in prison. In a video at the time to raise funds to save his law license and pay for a speaking tour, he said, “There’s a very common strain among my political clients: They’re people that say, ‘No.’ They resist.”

Cohen spoke to The Village Sun about a week before Columbia’s president, Minouche Shafik, testified before Congress about on-campus anti-Semitism at the elite Ivy League school. The day after Shafik’s congressional grilling, police made mass arrests of anti-Israel students who refused to vacate a pop-up tent encampment in the middle of the campus.

Cohen himself was kicked out of the Morningside Heights school when he was a student, after having just transferred there from Long Island University.

“I got f—ing suspended from Columbia 50 years ago. I got thrown out of Columbia after a week for antiwar protesting,” he said, adding, “Columbia is fascist.”


    • The Village Sun The Village Sun Post author | April 23, 2024

      The Sun article was the basis for the Post article! Thanks for the tip to do the story, John.

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