Activists Face Criminal Charges, Jail Time for Exercising 1st Amendment
A former Soviet dissident takes on campus Jew-hatred -- and may now lose his freedom.
Dear Freedom Center Supporter,
Freedom Center activists working to stop groups supporting Islamist terror on our campuses have been arrested and face jail time. We must stand behind them! We need your help!
In fact, I’m going to ask you to make an emergency, tax-deductible donation to help fund their legal defense – but first, let me explain what happened…
In the early morning hours on November 3rd, Oleg Atbashian and his assistant set out to hang posters on the campus of George Mason University exposing the Jew-hating group Students for Justice in Palestine for what it is – a promoter of Hamas propaganda and supporters of Hamas’ terrorist agenda to destroy Israel and subject its people to genocide.
As a young man, Oleg was a Soviet dissident, demonstrating for democracy the streets of Moscow as Ronald Reagan was fighting the Cold War to victory. So Oleg knows totalitarianism when he sees it. And he saw it on the George Mason campus, where Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), was set on November 4 to hold its annual conference to train its supporters in the latest tactics for disseminating Hamas propaganda and promulgating Jew hatred on campus.
The group’s agenda was so incendiary that several members of the Virginia state legislature had already signed a letter calling SJP “a group that incites hate, fuels violent behavior and places citizens’ lives at great risk,” and had urged GMU to cancel the event.
Instead, the university decided to allow the SJP to proceed with its campaign of hate against Jews, Israel, and America itself, so Oleg and his assistant, working after dark to avoid confrontation, put up posters around campus designed to get students to think about SJP and the hatefest it was about to present.
One of them showed bodies lying in pools of blood with the hashtag #StopCampusSupport4Terrorism. Another depicted three figures labeled “Europe,” “Israel,” and “America” in the center of a bull’s-eye with the caption “Think the terrorists won’t come here? Think again.“
You see, almost immediately, campus police confronted the two men, confiscated their posters and materials, and arrested them for “destruction of property worth at least $2,500.” Not bothering to read the two men their Miranda rights, the police officers handcuffed them so tightly that they’d be bruised for days.
They told them that they were being arrested for a “class 6 felony” and transported them to a cramped jail cell in the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center, where they were held for the next 14 hours until they were released on $8,000 bail.
Of course, the Freedom Center got them released as soon as it could, but both men face a criminal court hearing and possible jail time.
Oleg Atbashian, looking back on his youth as an anti-Communist activist in the former Soviet Union, sees a sad irony in being arrested on a U.S. campus while exercising his free speech rights to counter terrorism:
“Back in my Soviet dissident days, when I was collecting signatures in defense of Andrei Sakharov, I was screamed at, threatened, and lectured by the KGB and Communist functionaries. What I never imagined was that in the United States, the land of the free, I would not only be subjected to similar treatment, but go to jail.”
That’s why the Freedom Center has set up a Campus Legal Fund to raise an initial $50,000 in the next week to cover both men’s attorney and court fees.
We cannot stand by while schools like George Mason University enable groups such as Students for Justice in Palestine to built fronts for terrorism on our campuses. We cannot stand by while people like Oleg Atbashian are stripped of their first amendment rights when warning students about the supporters of terror in their midst.
It is time to take a stand – for our constitutional rights, for combatting terrorism and anti-Semitism, and for these brave activists who have risked their freedom to speak out against the injustice happening on our college campuses.
Thank you in advance for your support.