Breaking Campus News. Launching Media Careers.
Pro-Palestinian Berkeley law student argues she had right to crash Jewish dean’s backyard party

Legal experts say pro-Palestinian free speech claims ‘meritless’

Legal experts pushed back this week on a pro-Palestinian student’s assertion she was exercising her First Amendment rights when she interrupted a private dinner party at the home of the University of California at Berkeley law dean.

The incident Tuesday involved UC Berkeley law student Malak Afaneh, Dean Erwin Chemerinsky and his wife, law Professor Catherine Fisk, during the first of three celebratory dinners at their home for third-year law students, the LA Times reports.

At one point during the meal, Afaneh stood up and began giving a speech recognizing the Muslim holiday Ramadan and criticizing the university for not divesting from companies supportive of Israel, according to a video on X by American Council of Trustees and Alumni fellow Steve McGuire.

Chemerinsky, who is Jewish, and Fisk repeatedly asked Afaneh to leave, but she continued to speak, the video shows. At one point, Fisk tried to take the microphone from Afaneh while demanding she leave their property, the video shows.

“The National Lawyers Guild has informed us this is our First Amendment right,” Afaneh responded, according to the video.

Afaneh and a small group of students eventually left after the couple threatened to call the police, the video shows.

In an interview afterward with the LA Times, Afaneh accused Fisk of assaulting her.

The Jewish News of Northern California reports:

According to one student present at the event, the video doesn’t paint the whole picture. A Jewish third-year law student who was at the dinner said that the protesters, including Afaneh, were speaking and disrupting the event for quite a while before things escalated. They were at first politely asked to leave by Chemerinsky and Fisk, the student said. The video shows only the end of the incident, after the protesters had been speaking there for three or four minutes, he said.

“They did not leave when they were asked the first 20 or 30 times,” he said. The student added that they finally left after Fisk said that while she was reluctant to call the police, she would do so if needed.

Lawyers responding to the incident said the pro-Palestinian students did not have the right to speak freely on the dean’s private property.

“Peaceful protest on public campuses is protected speech,” Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression Director of Campus Rights Advocacy Alex Morey said in a statement provided to The College Fix. “Disruptive protest and trespassing on private property is not. The First Amendment doesn’t protect seriously disrupting events on public college campuses, much less at someone’s backyard dinner party.”

Orin Kerr, a law professor at UC Berkeley, described the pro-Palestinian students’ claim as “meritless.”

“There’s lots of discussion about various aspects of the event, but I don’t think there’s disagreement (among anyone serious, at least) that the First Amendment claim is meritless,” Kerr wrote on X.

Chemerinsky also issued a public statement Wednesday, describing how he and his wife have hosted these dinners for law students for years without incident.

“I am enormously sad that we have students who are so rude as to come into my home, in my backyard, and use this social occasion for their political agenda,” he said.

The dean said they still plan to hold the dinners Wednesday and Thursday, but security will be present.

“Any student who disrupts will be reported to student conduct and a violation of the student conduct code is reported to the Bar,” he said.

Earlier in the week, pro-Palestinian students put up posters around campus that read “No dinner with Zionist Chem while Gaza starves” and an image of the dean holding a bloody knife and fork, Chemerinsky said.

While the posters were “awful” and some people complained, he said he did not remove them because he is a “staunch” supporter of free speech.

However, “my home is not a forum for free speech,” he said.

MORE: Lawsuit accuses UC Berkeley of not protecting Jewish students

IMAGE: Steve McGuire/X

Like The College Fix on Facebook / Follow us on Twitter

Please join the conversation about our stories on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, MeWe, Rumble, Gab, Minds and Gettr.

About the Author
Micaiah Bilger is an assistant editor at The College Fix.