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Former US attorney general alleges UCLA stifled free speech on campus

By Shreya Maskara

May 11, 2016 12:54 a.m.

The original version of this article incorrectly stated that 2,000 students purchased tickets. In fact, 2,000 people purchased tickets. The article also misspelled Ricardo Vazquez's name.

This post was updated July 28, 2020 at 4 p.m.

A former U.S. attorney general alleged UCLA officials stifled free speech by canceling a political education festival in 2014, according to an email he sent to a UCLA lawyer Tuesday morning.

Ramsey Clark, former attorney general, said in the letter that canceling the event organized by the Free and Equal Elections Foundation prevented the organization from reaching out to UCLA students and involving them in the electoral process. Free and Equal Elections Foundation is an organization that aims to provide education to voters to broaden electoral choices, according to their website.

In May 2014, UCLA cancelled the event, called the United We Stand Festival, because organizers failed to make payments to use Pauley Pavilion for the event. The festival was scheduled to bring to campus dozens of speakers, including radio host Larry King, the founders of Ben & Jerry’s, founding members of the Wu-Tang Clan and other politicians and prominent figures.

About 2,000 people purchased tickets for the event, said Christina Tobin, founder of Free and Equal, in an interview with the Daily Bruin in 2014. Alicia Dearn, a trial attorney who represents Free and Equal, said the students were refunded for the tickets.

Clark added UCLA hurt Free and Equal’s reputation, and may have canceled the event because UCLA officials didn’t agree with some of the performers’ and politicians’ political views.

UCLA spokesperson Ricardo Vazquez said in an email statement UCLA cancelled the event because Free and Equal Elections missed the payment deadline. Dearn said Free and Equal wired the payment for the event to UCLA in time, but UCLA still cancelled the event.

Vazquez added officials tried to work with the organization to make last-minute arrangements for a smaller event on campus, but the organization never responded with information or payment for the proposed alternative.

Tobin said in a press release she thinks canceling the event stifled democracy and free speech.

“What UCLA did was tantamount to bullying,” Tobin said.

Dearn said UCLA officials failed to comply with a contract they signed with Free and Equal by canceling the event, despite being sent a payment.

“Not following through on contracts is not in the best interest of the university or the student body,” she said.

Dearn added Free and Equal is working to reach a resolution with UCLA’s counsel before resorting to legal action.

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Shreya Maskara | Assistant news editor
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