The Cain Mutiny: On the shouting down of Briscoe Cain

Good day Austin:

In the middle of the day on Monday, Oct. 9, Briscoe Cain, a 32-year-old first-term ullivantate representative from Harris County, member of the Freedom Caucus and the most conservative member of the Texas House (according to the index employed by Rice University political scientist Mark Jones) went to speak at Thurgood Marshall School of Law, a part of Texas Southern University, a historically black public institution, at the invitation of the law school’s student chapter of the conservative Federalist Society.

Cain never got to deliver his speech, which was, initially, the object of student protests, and subsequently, shut down by the president of the university.

What follows are interviews with the two key players in the events that day, both students at the law school.

The first is Daniel Caldwell, the second-year law student, who started the Federalist chapter at the law school, and invited Cain.

 

The second is Justin Tolston, the third-year law student, who led the protests.

Before we start, here is coverage of what happened a week ago Monday for KHOU-TV in Houston.

By way of introduction, here is some background on Caldwell from the League of Women Voters’ guide for the November election. Caldwell is a candidate for Houston Community College Board of Trustees.

Caldwell, 32, grew up downriver from Detroit. He came to Texas in 2003 to attend Texas A&M University. A second-year law student, he is the chapter president of Federalist Society. It has 31 members out of more than 600 law students.

He said the Federalist Society  for Law and Public Policy Studies  chapter is a legit organization under the Thurgood Marshall Law School Student Bar Association — the law school’s student government organization governing the 29 student organizations.

He said that even though the law school is a subsidiary of TSU, the law school student government is autonomous and does not require its student organizations to seek approval of the TSU student government to hold meetings and invite speakers to campus.

He said Cain’s appearance got all the many approvals he needed for the speaker, the room, and for the flyers advertising the event.

He said none of the other law school events this fall sought or required additional sanction from TSU.

DC:

I put up flyers. They were approved. They were put on TV monitors out in the hall, and one of the professors, April Walker, staunch Democrat, apparently doesn’t like Briscoe to the point of being willing to rile up as many students as she can get to protest it.

They started saying that he was a racist, that he was a white supremacist, that he was a member of the KKK.

On Friday beforehand, in the morning, I was told by classmates, “Have you heard this about him?”

And, I’m like, the allegations are either ill-informed or an outright lie. Applying Hanlon’s razor (“Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity”) never assume it’s a lie. Assume that people just don’t know what they are talking about, they’ve been lied to by somebody.

Caldwell told those who approached him about Cain’s alleged racism …

If you can tell me what they base their allegations on, I will listen.

They said they hadn’t seen anything, that’s just what they heard.

So I went on Google, I looked up Briscoe Cain/KKK, and what I found was that he is member of the tea party and there are people who equate the tea party with the KKK, and that’s the only association that I could find.

I left email and phone messages for Walker, but did not hear back from her.

Here is her bio:

Professor, Texas Southern University, Thurgood Marshall School of Law, Houston, TX (2016-Present)
Associate Professor, Texas Southern University, Thurgood Marshall School of Law, Houston, TX (2008-2016)
Assistant Professor, Texas Southern University, Thurgood Marshall School of Law, Houston, TX (2004-2008)
Associate Judge for the City of Houston (2000-2010)
Assistant Attorney General for the State of Texas (1986-1987)
Instructor of law 1991 – 2004
Director of Legal Education Advancement Program (LEAP) – current

Caldwell said Walker was present and vocal during the protest.

DC:

She came to make sure the protest was successful.

At the protest, right after I introduced Mr. Cain, they started shouting when he started talking. Once I was done, I put on the projector screen on the University’s web page with the University’s values.

I knew the protest was coming because Sunday night at 11:55 p.m., as I was going from my locker to leave the (law school library), I saw students in a classroom, including Justin, making posters.

I didn’t know they were the protestors until he came out and told me that if I wanted a crowd, he hoped that I expected to have one because there would be one and that the news would be there, and they had sent out at least three or four press releases. And as I was setting up on Monday, one of the news stations had a camera in the room. They were getting set up at the same time.

Of his Sunday night encounter with Tolston, Caldwell said:

I think that was the first conversation I had with him.

And I said, “Well, we ordered

and if there’s any leftovers, you and your friends are welcome to take a chicken nugget. There weren’t any leftovers.

Amid the disruption Caldwell said:

I walked up to him and asked him if he thought his conduct was consistent with university values, right after I left the podium Monday at 12:15.

I waited for him to acknowledge me, because he was leading the chanting. He acknowledged me with eye contact, and I asked him twice whether he thought what he was doing was consistent with university values, and then I asked him, what did he want.

He stepped up and chest-bumped me and said, “We want you to rescind this invitation to this racist,” and I said, “No,” and I also said, “Your breath stinks, that’s not a personal attack, your breath stinks. Please get out of my face.”

I pressed charges against him. It will come out to be like a traffic ticket.

It was caught on video.

I turned away from him and, in trying to provoke me, he smacked the back of my head. It clearly wasn’t intended to injure, it was intended to provoke, And I turned toward him again, and at that point the police dragged him out of the room. But because I had turned away from him and taken a step-and-a-half, and clearly disengaged — even though he was technically provoked by the fact that I told him twice that he had bad breath — it was uncalled for, it was unjustified, and under Texas Penal Code Chapter 22 Section (01) (A3), it’s simple assault and I filed a police report.

(3) intentionally or knowingly causes physical contact with another when the person knows or should reasonably believe that the other will regard the contact as offensive or provocative.

It’s a Class 3 misdemeanor, same as a traffic ticket. The fine in Harris County is like $300, but he’s in law school, I’m sure he can plead it down to either probation or community service and not even have to pay the fine.

I wondered whether the law might not consider a claim of bad breath, twice repeated, fighting words.

DC:

It has to be more than words. That’s actual a common law thing, that bad words are never enough.

What’s the nature of the alleged bad breath, I asked Caldwell.  Are we talking garlic, alcohol?

DC:

It was like he woke up and hadn’t brushed his teeth. Just overnight breath.

Caldwell said a mix of campus and Houston police were on the scene.

DC:

More than half hour before Briscoe Cain showed up  at 11:15, there were three patrol cars outside of the front of the law school and two on the backside of the Law School.

After Caldwell’s face-to-face confrontation with Tolston,  police began removing Tolston and the other protesters.

DC: 

Before they even finished getting them out, the president (TSU President Austin Lane) comes to the podium and says, “Let them back in.

 

The first thing he did was introduce himself and my thought was, “What is the university president doing here?” And then he said, “What you’re seeing is not an approved event,” and then that’s when I wanted to start protesting because I had definitely done everything you were supposed to do.

I asked the (Law School) dean (James Douglas) who was sitting there, what his take on it was, and he said, “Yeah, I had approved the event and what (the president) said really didn’t have any basis.” But he said it in low tones like he had just been a kicked dog, he had just been overruled by the only person on campus who could veto, and the executive veto had been used, and he had to just sit by and say we’ll take care of it later.

And on Friday the Law School dean emailed the university administration and every student organization at the Law School at their personal address and every law student at their student email address, refuting the power grab of  University Student Services over law school student activities.

I already respected Dean Douglas. This makes me respect him more because he stood by 1) me, 2), the law school.

Here’s a little about Douglas, who is a former president of TSU.

Texas Southern University announces personnel changes in two academic areas and one university leadership positon. Dr. James Douglas has been appointed to serve as interim dean of the Thurgood Marshall School of Law, Dr. Michael Adams will serve as interim dean of the Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs, and Dr. Bobby Wilson will serve as interim provost and vice president for Academic Affairs.

dugDr. Douglas, a TSU stalwart who served as president of Texas Southern University from 1995 to 1998, was a Distinguished Professor of Law at the Thurgood Marshall School of Law (TMSL).  Dr. Douglas, current president of the NAACP – Houston Chapter, has held positions as dean and professor of TMSL, interim dean – Florida A&M University College of Law, professor –Northeastern University School of Law, and assistant professor and associate dean – Syracuse University College of Law. He is a former American Bar Association education chair and has been involved in a number of ABA committees, including Minority Affairs and Science & Technology, and the Law Admissions Council. He is married to Tanya Smith Douglas and has three adult children. Dr. Douglas earned his B.A., in Mathematics from Texas Southern University; a Juris Doctorate (J.D.) from Texas Southern University’s Thurgood Marshall School of Law, and his J.S.M., from Stanford University.

DC:

In the debrief, I had to call the Federalist Society national office, student division director, and give him a heads-up on the Federalist Society making the news.

The Federalist Society wants all of our events to be wildly successful. So we go back to defining what is successful: well attended, and inspires discussion and debate that helps convince people to agree with the Federalist Society mission and values, to promote awareness that the purpose of the state is to preserve freedom. In other words, the government’s job is to protect rights and liberties.

So, Dr. Lane, the chief executive of TSU, came in and said the speaker doesn’t have any freedom of speech and the protesters don’t have any freedom of speech — everybody leave. Whose rights did he protect? Nobody’s. Whose rights did he crush? Everybody’s.

This made national news. Now there are people discussing and debating what should have been done, what should be done next, and the number of people who showed — well all the protesters count as attendees, so it was a perfectly well-attended event.

We have to say, you know, it was a successful event by and large, even though it was canceled.

That’s the silver lining.

We had a perfect storm.

So national doesn’t want any more events canceled. Make sure no more events are canceled. Keep in contact with Mr. Cain. Take his advice. He knows how to handle the legal environment in Texas. You have the law school administration at your back, who support you.  Do what you need to do to remain in good standing with the university and have successful events in November.

Meanwhile, if you want to file a lawsuit, you can do so as a student. They are not going to file on my behalf. There are other non-profit organizations whose big issue is freedom of speech who have offered to represent me free of charge, and there are people who said if I want to file a lawsuit and need to pay a retainer fee, they will pledge $500 or $1,000.

I’m wait and see. I’ll continue to work with the dean of student affairs and the dean of the law school. I know that any claims I have are subject to the doctrine of the exhaustion of administrative remedies.

I can’t sue right now.

Briscoe Cain has a right complaint. His is rock solid. He’s got the police who escorted him out under threat of force. He has (state) Sen. Borris Miles who escorted him out … and he has a university president who shut him down on free speech. So he has a triple state actor case for violation of civil liberties by the university and its agents.

Why did Sen. Miles arrive on the scene?

DC:

I think he probably had a phone call from April Walker and the others organizing the protest.

I say that on pure speculation. It could be his story about just happening to be meeting with Dr. Lane about I don’t know what on Monday morning is exactly the way it happened, but what was the meeting about? I’m curious. It’s an odd coincidence. I’m not saying what he said was false. I’m saying, “Huh, that’s interesting.”

Whose idea was it to invite Cain?

DC:

That was on me. I met Briscoe Cain in December 2016, and I had asked him for advice in starting law school, how to get my legal career off on the right foot and he said, “join the Federalist Society.”

I got here and there wasn’t a Federalist Society chapter here so I got one registered.

Are you surprised to be in the middle of all this?

DC:

I was very surprised to be getting phone calls from various journalists requesting comments and statements. After the first three days, it became telling the same story.

I was telling the story with a smile the first time. I’m telling the story with a smile now.

Thank you, Daniel.

Now let’s hear from Justin Tolston.

At 26, he’s already written a book about his experience growing up  – Black from Nebraska.

JT:

I’m working on my second edition as we speak, hopefully to be reprinted when I can add  JD to it.

Born and raised in Omaha, Tolston went to high school in Lincoln. He graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a political science degree. He then worked for Teach for America in Harlem, among other jobs. He wrote his book, which was published in November 2015. In August, he started the Equity in Justice Institute. Judge Walker is a special advisor.

How did he become aware of Cain coming to campus?

JT:

I’d seen the flyer. Since I’m a transplant in Texas, I wasn’t as familiar with the political climate as I ought to be. We had a juvenile law class with former municipal judge, Judge Walker, and she kind of brought it to our attention, kind of his leanings. So we googled and looked him up in class. Brooklynn Morris (a student it in the class) had heard of his anti-transgender leanings, and read them out loud, and that took the room aback. 

I ran into Nneka Akubeze (another student), who was from Wisconsin, did mobilizing work against (Wisconsin) Gov. (Scott) Walker there. I told her I was thinking of mobilizing some people, we were talking about it in class about 20 minutes ago. I created a little flyer, circulated it on Snapchat. I work as a grad assistant for the Office of Information Technology on campus (at the main library), and so I told people as they trickled in.

Started drafting a press release, all the way up until the night before we were in the law school library making signs and putting the finishing touch on this press release I sent out.

We ran into Mr. Caldwell. He was in the library. He’s a pretty studious person himself. Give credit where due. He actually ran into me and Nneka when we were making signs and came to the room and said, “I hear you’re organizing this protest,” and he didn’t think anything of it. You know, you’re not going to be able to mobilize anybody in a couple of days, and he kind of trivialized it, made the cavalier remark, “You know you guys can have our leftover He said that and kind of laughed and strolled off.

Here is the press release that Tolston sent out:

For Immediate Release:

Students and faculty requested Dean Douglas withdraw the invitation extended by the Federalist Society allowing Briscoe Cain to speak at the Texas Southern University’s Thurgood Marshall School of Law on Monday, October 9, 2017 at 12P.M. In the wake of Charlottesville, now more than ever, it is paramount to refuse individuals a platform for the promotion of hatred. The ideological positions of Briscoe Cain are directly opposed to the very legal basis on which Thurgood Marshall School of Law was founded. In the face of the administration’s refusal to disinvite Briscoe Cain to our sanctuary of education out of 1st Amendment protections, we, the united student body of Texas Southern University, with the support of staff, will respond in kind. The following flyer is being circulated among Texas Southern University students:

Evidence of Briscoe Cain’s promotion of hate speech, white supremacy, and racist ideology.

  • Briscoe Cain has published and continues to promote, by allowing to appear on his official Twitter page as recent as Friday October 6, 2016, a symbol that has been identified as being used by the “alt-right” according to the Anti-Defamation League.[1] The same symbol appeared in a Facebook post by the man that killed Heather Heyer in Charlottesville.[2] As a lawyer, Mr. Cain must understand the significance of such a divisive and bigoted symbol.

[1] https://www.adl.org/education/references/hate-symbols/pepe-the-frog

[2] https://www.buzzfeed.com/claudiakoerner/what-we-know-about-james-alex-fields-charlottesville-crash?utm_term=.ykv33doge#.laM77GQza

  • Briscoe Cain is transphobic and his discriminatory comments trivializing violence include: “Was it a problem when you were a kid? I don’t remember dudes walking around in dresses getting beat up. It wasn’t a thing, and now I think we’re encouraging it…Look, we’re not going to allow government funds or government buildings to be used for social engineering.”[1]
  • In his relentless assault on the transgender community, Briscoe Cain filed an amendment to prohibit funds to be used for inmate sex reassignment or gender identity transitioning.[2]

Briscoe Cain has published offensive imagery concerning President Barack Obama on his Twitter.

[1] https://mic.com/articles/168118/texas-lawmaker-briscoe-cain-calls-anti-trans-violence-dudes-in-dresses-getting-beat-up#.6yesHG4UC

[2] http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/tlodocs/85R/amendments/prefiled/pdf/SB00001H2_851105.PDF

How did the event unfold?

JT:

The event starts, Briscoe’s there. Thirty to 60 people showed up in black (a sign of protest.)

We organize in the lobby. We get our chants together.

And then we come indoors to let him know he’s really not welcome here on campus. While we respect free speech when somebody’s speech is offensive but doesn’t cross the threshold of becoming unconstitutionally protected for encouraging violence, you have a First Amendment right to oppose that view, with your contrary narrative or counter-protest.

The TSU Chief of Police (Mary Young) was on hand with maybe six or 10 officers and the scene was getting out of hand, and she called Dr. Lane’s people, because she reports directly to the president of the university, and she said, “This situation is getting out of hand, and you have a disturbance over here on main campus,” and he calls Dr. Moffett, the dean of student services for the entire campus. He ran a check of registered organizations with main campus because ideally an organization is registered at the law school and then dually registered with the main campus. That dual registration didn’t occur.

(President Lane) was informed, I’m sure, that the cameras were there and that this was becoming a media event.

So when Dr. Moffett ran his check, he didn’t pull up the Federalist Society. So Dr. Lane, after being informed by Dr. Moffett that there was no sanctioned organization with an event for that day, decided to cancel. So after I was drug out by campus police, Dr. Lane makes the executive decision, OK, because this isn’t a sponsored event, I am going to pull it.

They actually barred — and this is a grievance I have with the administration — they barred journalists and an individual from Houston Public Media. I was there when they said, “You can’t come in. You can’t talk to our students. Where’s your press pass?”

Another student wanted to come in with a long lens and they told him you’re part of the media, you can’t come in here with that camera.

It’s unconstitutional what they were doing.

You can’t do this.

When they said we couldn’t have our signs, she (Walker) said, “What protest have you been to when people aren’t allowed to have signs?” 

And then when Mr. Cain said, “”Hey, let them have their signs.” The speaker at the podium said, “OK, you can have your signs.” The room went to uproar, with, “When did he start creating what the rules were for what was acceptable speech and the restrictions thereof at our institution?”

What role did Judge Walker play at the event?

She was definitely there and she was definitely in opposition to attempts to restrict our access.

Here was the statement that Cain gave to the media immediately after the event.

Here is the statement TCU issued:

Statement on non-sanctioned University event

HOUSTON (October 11, 2017) – Texas Southern University welcomes free speech and all viewpoints on campus as part of our collegiate experience. A student event at TSU’s Thurgood Marshall School of Law on October 9, 2017, ended early because it was not scheduled in accordance with university policy.  The university has extended an invitation to Rep. Briscoe Cain to return to campus for deliberative dialogue at a university-approved event.

Texas Southern has more than 119 registered student organizations and clubs for students. Once campus administrators were made aware by our police department of a disturbance at the law school involving our students, they conducted a check of recognized student organizations, it was determined that The Federalist Society was not a sanctioned university organization and proper scheduling procedures were not followed.  To view the full policy on campus organizations, please click here.

 According to the Texas Southern University Student Code of Conduct, Section III, Freedom of Expression Policy:

“Texas Southern University is committed to fostering a learning environment where free inquiry and expression are encouraged. The purpose of Texas Southern University’s Freedom of Expression Policy is to provide for organized expressive activities to be conducted on the grounds of the University in a manner consistent with these principles. The University expects that persons engaging in expressive activities will comply with University policies and applicable local, state, and federal laws. Texas Southern University maintains its right to place reasonable time, place and manner restrictions on expressive activities. Additionally, any activities that are unlawful or disruptive to the normal operations of the University, including classes and University business activities, will not be tolerated. Groups or individuals engaging in disruptive activities or failing to comply with University policies and applicable local, state, and federal laws may face immediate removal from the campus and other appropriate actions by University officials and University police.

Freedom of Expression is applicable to students, faculty and staff, who wish to engage in extracurricular, organized expressive activities including public speaking, literature distribution, poster displays, sign displays, any other type of graphic exhibitions, expressive performances, petitioning, or similar noncommercial activities at locations on University property. These guidelines do not apply to official University activities. University grounds and buildings are reserved for use by Texas Southern University students, faculty, and staff, except as otherwise permitted by policies of the University. Expressive activities permitted under these guidelines do not imply official endorsement by the University. Groups or individuals engaged in expressive activities are responsible for the content of their expression.”

TSU’s vice president of student affairs is working with the student group to assist with registration process and procedures. 

JT:

The confusion comes in where (law school Dean) Dr. Douglas sends a subsequent email, probably 11 paragraphs long, where there’s some internal friction between Dr. Douglas and Dr. Miffed

(Note: the following section in which Tolston responds to Caldwell’s assault complaint was inadvertently omitted from the original version of this First Reading. I am correcting that here, with apologies to Justin Tolston.)

Tolston dismissed Caldwell’s assault claim.

JT:

As soon as I get confirmation that he filed (a complaint), I am going to  countersue. He came up to me (days after the event) in front of an administrator that was sitting at her desk, but because her desk sits low, he couldn’t see her, and he said, “I told them you hit me and I’m going to get you.”

Does that necessarily mean the complain is unfounded?

JT:

The manner, the context and the circumstance in which, if somebody allegedly assaulted you, you don’t accost that individual and then try to claim to say you’re going to get them and basically threaten them about an assault that didn’t occur.

He didn’t say it  (make the assault claim) at the time in a roomful of police officers and roomful of cameras

I’ve spoken to members of the administration who have assured me there are at least two cameras  in that room that would have caught any alleged altercation.

“It didn’t happen,” Tolston said.

As for the claim about his breath,Tolston said a personal attack is the last refuge of someone with “bad arguments.” He said if, “I wanted to be petty, and go tit for tat, I could go to the dean” about Caldwell’s personal attack, “but that wasn’t the point.”

JT:

It was only days after the event, not at the event or immediately after the event that the claimed I assaulted him, after video, quote, evidence, that he’s claiming to have. So I think once the police understand the timeline on this report that no one’s even contact me about, I think everyone will realize the frivolous nature of what he’s claiming.

Caldwell sent me the cell phone video on which he is basing his claim and it’s hard to make out whether Tolston’s hand may have grazed Caldwell’s hair. I can’t see this complaint going anywhere

A week almost to the minute after he disputed the Cain event, Tolston spoke at Lone Star College about free speech at the invitation of the administration there

CIVIC ENGAGEMENT: Guest speaker–TSU student organizer Justin Tolston
Monday, October 16, 2017
12:30 PM – 1:50 PM (CT)

JT:

I said this when I spoke yesterday at Lone Star College, where I spoke to a group of individuals – there’s a threshold between what you find personally offensive and what the law bars as being unconstitutional speech. You can say you hate a specific group, but you can’t encourage violence toward that group — “I hate, name-the-group,” as opposed to “Go out and kill said named group.”

What we were alleging is that Mr. Cain’s speech may not cross in this instance in this forum the threshold which would find it impermissible to allow him to speak on campus, but because of the offensive nature of the stands he has taken prior to,  and because of the illegitimacy of the event, we are protesting that he even has the platform to be here.

What has he done in the past that you found so offensive?

JT:

He’s a member of the alt-right, and his dog whistle is loud enough for anybody who’s intellectual and keeps up with the nascent attempts to make white nationalism a mainstream ideology. If you got to Twitter, which we did that Friday, he was publishing symbols of Pepe the Frog, which the Anti-Defamation League has noted, and it has been very noted, that that’s a symbol of the alt-right, of white nationalism.

Anybody who was aware of geopolitics in Europe understands that Brexit, the ethnocentric white nationalist British attempt to kick out, or in response to the influence of individuals based on their part of being in the European Union and allowing the free access of borders and allowing the benefits of being a part of that union that come up with it.

So, it seemed that the linchpin of Tolston’s concern about Cain, the smoking gun of his racism, was Pepe the Frog’s appearance on his Brexit retweet.

I told Tolston that it seemed off to me, that, sure Cain was Freedom Caucus and very conservative, but I just didn’t see him as alt-right.

“I’m a libertarian conservative,” Cain told me. “I’m anything but alt-right.”

JT:

I would draw a line between ultraconservatism and white nationalism, and, if, as a lawyer you are promulgating symbols of bigotry and ethnocentrism of any kind — because black nationalism is as big a threat as white nationalism — and if you’re going to have white nationalism, and if you’re going to have someone who is a member of the Texas Legislature going to stand for white nationalism, that’s where it becomes incumbent upon people who hear that dog whistle and see these nascent attempts to bring that white nationalism and that ideology into the mainstream to offer a rebuke.

If he is not a white nationalist, Tolston said, the question for Cain is, “So why are you retweeting symbols of the alt-right? And I hope you follow up and push back on him on that.”

Cain told me had not seen the flyer with the bill of particulars against him until I sent it to him yesterday.

I asked why he had retweeted a tweet with an image of Pepe the Frog.

He said he had never heard of Pepe the Frog, or knew its use as an alt-right meme until that very moment, yesterday, when I explained it to him.

Do I believe that?

Well, yeah, I guess I do.

JT:

As lawyer, you are perpetuating and allowing to stay up (on your Twitter feed) what the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center deem a symbol of hate, then how can you claim that you’re not?

I asked Cain about his Brexit/Texit tweets. Does he support Texit?

He said he was just a politician getting a discussion going.

JT: 

Multiple members of the administration, including the student organization and the dean of the law school, are talking about bringing him back with the proper respect for time, place and manner.

What would be different the next time? He’d still be Briscoe Cain. Would the outcome still be the same?

JT:

Absolutely, and that will be our goal. Our goal will be to create that counter-narrative and if that situation as a byproduct creates a security situation which deprives him of that platform, I’m fine with that.

When you have a debate, you want a debate with civil ideological beliefs where people who have a meaningful willingness to receive constructive criticism.

If your platform is just used to want to deprive people of their rights because I think it’s my personal belief — I think one of the quotes from Mr. Cain when he wanted to talk about vaccination choice is, “liberty is greater than safety” — and my response to that is that when your positions are an existential threat to the existence of other people who are transgender or transitioning, then their liberty is greater than your safety.

The positions you take have a profound influence on the human rights and the ability to live with dignity of others. I don’t think he understands the visceral response to some of the positions he takes, and then the ties to white nationalism, was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

What specific things had he done to threaten transgender individuals?

Tolston cited Cain’s amendment to a measure to ban the Texas Department of Criminal Justice from paying for gender transitioning or sexual reassignment surgery.

JT:

For instance, Chelsea Manning was unable to receive transitioning therapy in jail and his amendment he proposed would be a direct rebuke of that type of therapy, that type of care. He wanted to put a state prohibition on funds being use for inmates. As a member of the legal community, as a legal scholar, when you are trying to further oppress a minority, an oppressed group that is disenfranchised because of their position of being incarcerated, I think somebody has to stand for the most marginalized, especially when you have someone like a powerful representative that decides to use their platform to promulgate hate.

Or his attempt to end palliative care just because of his misunderstanding, (See, the First Reading, The Education of Briscoe Cain: On the schooling of Jonathan Stickland 3.0.)

JT:

I think somebody has to stand up to someone whose ideological beliefs, they’re disassociating in the cognitive dissonance of “OK, I’m not for hate, I’m just for hate of this specific group for right now,” and that’s the kind of disconnect, the kind of cognitive dissonance I think Mr. Cain is up to — “I’m not a white nationalist, I just promote symbols of that and I just support movements that are based in ethnocentrism.”

“He’s on Fox News sensationalizing it,” said Tolston.

Tolston said the protest was not put on by Black Lives Matter, though that’s what Cain said.

“That was pulled out of thin air,” Tolston said. “That’s his scheme —  we made the connection to alt-right and he was trying to make a connection to Black Lives Matter.

But, in fairness to Cain, it might have something to do with Tolston’s choice of a t-shirt.

Cain is considering a free speech lawsuit. Also, in a TribTalk he wrote:

In light of this event, I have formally requested that House Speaker Joe Straus and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick add campus free speech protection to their lists of interim committee charges to be studied in advance of the next legislative session. It is clear that the Legislature must take action.

I told Tolston that the peril for him and other campus protesters is that it appears they are placing their hands over their ears and shouting speakers down in a place that ought to treasure free speech.

JT:

There is really not a discussion for me to have with him when you have someone who says and does the things he does to solicit attention and just to amass more name recognition. I think he showed very little interest in substantive debate on meaningful issues with the community at TSU. 

Tolston said he got feedback both positive and negative.

JT:

I’ve gotten it from both ends 

I was approached by some students who asked, “What did that accomplish?”  And I would say it allowed us to have a platform to at least have this discussion. The fact that we were invited to Lone Star College in Tomball to talk to a room of students, to 60 to 100 students, about free speech, race and grassroots organizing, I think that is all a success.

I asked Tolston about the role that Borris Miles played.

JT:

When Dr. Lane got the call he tagged along because they were supposed to have a meeting after. 

But, perhaps reflexively, the interviewer on FOX led in his interview with Cain, by saying that Cain “had been told by a Democrat” that he wouldn’t be able to speak at the campus event.

Maybe he had seen a tweet from Michael Quinn Sullivan.

Miles’ office said he wasn’t doing interviews on the matter.

But he issued a statement:

Free speech is our first amendment right and it is near and dear to my heart.  Our community exercised this right during the Civil Rights Movement and continue to exercise it to this very day.

Recently, I chose to help defuse a potentially volatile situation at Texas Southern University, to protect the students, faculty, staff and a sitting state representative. It was evident that the university administration was not adequately informed about the unauthorized meeting and made the correct decision to postpone the meeting because of the escalating tensions and lack of security. The university is dedicated to working with the student group in the future to hold the program. This was nothing more than miscommunication between different entities at TSU and I explained that to Representative Briscoe Cain.

However, the leader of a right-wing group decided to take it a step further by referring to my actions as “thuggish.” He decided to use this racist, disrespectful and discriminatory rhetoric to create further divisions for his own personal gain. As a sitting state senator and a ten-year veteran of the Texas Legislature, I am appalled by anyone who would choose to use such loaded language, especially when our state and nation are in need of uniting, not dividing.

JT:

If Briscoe was serious about his attempts to address the concerns that are impacting our community he wouldn’t wait for an invitation from a conservative organization in its first year being established by a student that doesn’t represent the community.

The constitutional scholar in me is working at that robust debate that the democracy thrives on that  didn’t occur, and I think one of the best way of showing the flaws in somebody’s reasoning is to get them in front of a public forum and an audience that challenge them on the merits, but personally I’m pretty happy with the way it turned out. I think there’s again nothing that Briscoe Cain has done that he shows he wants to engage in our community, so, no, I’m glad he didn’t have the platform because, like I say, I think it would have just been lip service.

Well so you say you want robust debate, how would that happen?

JT:

Like say an individual like Borris Miles and Briscoe Cain debating on fact and not rhetoric.

Aha. Finally, we’re getting somewhere.

So the great Briscoe v. Borris battle at Thurgood Marshall School of Law is the way to go?

JT:

I would love to see that.

Me too.

 

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