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FIRE statement on speaker disruption at University of New Mexico

Tomi Lahren speaks about Back the Blue during the Turning Point USA event at Clemson University on Thursday night. Tomi Lahren Speaks At Turning Point Usa Event In Littlejohn Coliseum At Clemson University

Ken Ruinard / Imagn Content Services

A speech by conservative commentator Tomi Lahren, shown here speaking in 2021, was disrupted yesterday at University of New Mexico.

FIRE is monitoring reports that a student-organized speech by commentator Tomi Lahren last night at the University of New Mexico faced substantial disruption. 

FIRE encourages students to exercise their First Amendment right to peacefully protest. But, as FIRE has consistently argued, they may not infringe a speaker's own right to express their views, nor listeners’ right to hear those views, by shouting a speech down or resorting to violence. 

College campuses must be havens for engaging with a variety of viewpoints — especially controversial ones. 

Last night, at an event hosted by UNM’s chapter of Turning Point USA, some protesters allegedly tried to force their way into the room where Lahren was speaking (video below), pulled a fire alarm, and banged on doors and walls in an attempt to disrupt the speech. UNM should have taken additional steps to ensure the event could proceed as planned, while also protecting students’ ability to peacefully protest nearby.

Recent FIRE polling data shows that only 37% of students say it’s never acceptable to shout down a campus speaker to prevent them from speaking. And one in five students say it's acceptable to use violence — even if only rarely — to stop a campus speech. 

College campuses must be havens for engaging with a variety of viewpoints — especially controversial ones. The answer to speech you hate is more speech. 

The First Amendment — and FIRE — stand for the principle that peaceful protest need not be respectful or civil. It can be loud, angry, and passionate. But it must not infringe others’ expressive rights and, above all, must never resort to violence.

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