UC Santa Barbara professor steals young anti-abortion protester’s sign, apparently assaults protesters, says she ‘set a good example for her students’

The Santa Barbara Independent had a story on this last week, but I’ve just seen the police report (linked from a follow-up story), and it has to be read to be believed. First, a quick summary from the newspaper article:

According to 21-year-old Joan Short — a student at Thomas Aquinas College and a member of the Christian pro-life group Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust — she, her 16-year-old sister Thrin, and 11 other Survivors had set up three large signs in an area of campus heavy with foot traffic called the Arbor. The banners, along with literature the activists handed out, displayed graphic imagery of late-term abortions that Joan said was intended to “begin conversations” with passing students.

Joan said that at around 11 a.m., Dr. Mireille Miller-Young — an associate professor with UCSB’s Feminist Studies Department — approached the demonstration site and exchanged heated words with the group, taking issue with their pro-life proselytizing and use of disturbing photographs. Joan claimed Miller-Young, accompanied by a few of her students, led the gathering crowd in a chant of “Tear down the sign! Tear down the sign!” before grabbing one of the banners and walking with it across campus.

Joan said she called 9-1-1 and Thrin started filming, and that the pair followed Miller-Young and two of her students … into nearby South Hall. As Miller-Young and the students boarded an elevator, Joan said that Thrin repeatedly blocked the door with her hand and foot and that Miller-Young continually pushed her back. Miller-Young then exited the elevator and tried to yank Thrin away from the door while the students attempted to take her smartphone. “As Thrin tried to get away, the professor’s fingernails left bloody scratches on her arms,” Joan claimed. The struggle ended when Thrin relented, Miller-Young walked off, the students rode up in the elevator, and officers arrived to interview those involved.

Here’s the police report (emphases and some paragraph breaks added):

At about 1500 hours, I spoke to Miller-Young by telephone. I recorded my conversation with Miller-Young on my digital voice recorder.

In essence, Miller-Young told me that she felt “triggered” by the images on the posters. Miller-Young stated that she had been walking through the Arbor to get back to South Hall. Miller-Young said she was approached by people who gave her literature about abortion. Miller-Young said that she found this literature and pictures disturbing. Miller-Young said that she found this material offensive because she teaches about women’s “reproductive rights” and is pregnant. She said an argument ensued about the graphic nature of these images.

Miller-Young said that she situation became “passionate” and that other students in the area were “triggered” in a negative way by the imagery. Miller-Young said that she and others began demanding that the images be taken down. Miller-Young said that the demonstrators refused.

At which point, Miller-Young said that she “just grabbed it [the sign] from this girl’s hands.” Asked if there had been a struggle, Miller-Young stated, “I’m stronger so I was able to take the poster.”

Miller-Young said that the poster had been taken back to her office. Once in her office, a “safe space” described by Miller-Young, Miller-Young said that they were still upset by the images on the poster and had destroyed it. Miller-Young said that she was “mainly” responsible for the posters destruction because she was the only one with scissors.

I asked if Miller-Young had carried the poster into her office or if she had students carried it. Miller-Young said that she had carried the poster but that there were students with her. Miller-Young went on to say that because the poster was upsetting to her and other students, she felt that the activists did not have the right to be there.

I asked Miller-Young if she knew the students who had been with her (the students I had seen in the video). Miller-Young said that she was under the impression that I had already spoke to one of the students (Ito). Miller-Young refused to provide me with the unidentified student’s name, stating that she was not comfortable with it. Miller-Young said that she was concerned with protecting her students who she believed were “following” her.

I asked Miller-Young if she felt anything wrong had happened this afternoon. Miller-Young said that she did not know enough about the limits of free speech to answer my question. Miller-Young went on to say that she was not sure what an acceptable and legal response to hate speech would be. Miller-Young said that she was willing to pay for the cost of the sign but would “hate it.”

I explained to Miller-Young that the victims in this case felt that a crime had occurred. I told Miller-Young that I appreciated the fact that she felt traumatized by the imagery but that her response constituted a violation of law. Furthermore, I told Miller-Young that I was worried about the example she had set for her undergraduate students.

Miller-Young said that her students “were wanting her to take” the sign away. Miller-Young argued that she set a good example for her students. Miller-Young likened her behavior to that of a “conscientious objector.” Miller-Young said that she did not feel that what she had done was criminal. However, she acknowledged that the sign did not belong to her.

I asked Miller-Young what crimes she felt the pro-life group had violated. Miller-Young replied that their coming to campus and showing “graphic imagery” was insensitive to the community. I clarified the difference between University policy and law to Miller-Young and asked her again what law had been violated. Miller-Young said that she believed the pro-life group may have violated University policy. Miller-Young said that her actions today were in defense of her students and her own safety.

Miller-Young said that she felt that this issue was not criminal and expressed a desire to find a resolution outside of the legal system. Miller-Young continued and stated that she had the “moral” right to act in the way she did.

I asked Miller-Young if she could have behaved differently in this instance. There was a long pause. “I’ve said that I think I did the right thing. But I acknowledge that I probably should not have taken their poster.” Miller-Young also said that she wished that the anti-abortion group had taken down the images when they demanded them to.

Miller-Young also suggested that the group had violated her rights. I asked Miller-Young what right the group had violated. Miller-Young responded, “My personal right to go to work and not be in harm.

Miller-Young elaborated that one of the reasons she had felt so alarmed by this imagery is because she is about to have the test for Down Syndrome. Miller-Young said. “I work here, why do they get to intervene in that?”

I explained to Miller-Young that vandalism, battery and robbery had occurred. I also told Miller-Young that individuals involved in this case desired prosecution.

I later booked the torn sign into evidence at UCPD. I also uploaded the audio files of my interviews into digital evidence.

I request that a copy of my report, along with all related supplemental reports, be forwarded to the District Attorney’s Office for review.

Appalling. Thanks to Prof. Glenn Reynolds (InstaPundit) for the pointer to the most recent story.

Eugene Volokh teaches free speech law, religious freedom law, church-state relations law, a First Amendment Amicus Brief Clinic, and tort law, at UCLA School of Law, where he has also often taught copyright law, criminal law, and a seminar on firearms regulation policy.
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Eugene Volokh | March 20