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Levasseur sedition lecture cancelled by UMass officials is back on

Update 11/10, 8:50 p.m.: Ray Luc Levasseur’s contested speech, originally cancelled after protests from the family of a  New Jersey State Trooper Levasseur’s group was convicted of murdering and from Governor Deval Patrick, is back on. Levasseur will speak Thursday at 7:15 p.m. in Room 137 of the Isenberg School of Management. For the full story, check massdailycollegian.com’s home page.

Amid protest from police organizations and state representatives, officials at the University of Massachusetts have cancelled a lecture by Ray Luc Levasseur, a former member of the United Freedom Front.

The lecture, which was to be held Thursday Nov. 12, was planned by the UMass Amherst Libraries with partial support from the Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities and the Dean of the Graduate school, for the fifth annual colloquium on social change.

Levasseur was tried on federal charges of seditious conspiracy in 1989. The trial was recorded as being the most expensive in the history of Massachusetts. He and his co-defendants, Richard Williams and Pat Levasseur, were found not guilty of trying to overthrow the United States government.

In 1986 Levasseur was convicted of bombing buildings throughout the northeastern United States and sent to prison for twenty years. These bombings were meant to protest the U.S. government’s supposed backing of the apartheid South African government and Central American death squads.

Levasseur was released on parole in 2004.

Robert Cox, head of the library’s special collections and the university’s archives announced the event would not be held in a release issued on Nov. 5.

“The cancellation was a decision made out of moral and political weakness,” Levasseur said. “The police are limiting the first amendment instead of the courts.”

Members of the United Freedom Front, of which Levasseur was the leader, were convicted of the murder of a New Jersey state police officer and the attempted murder of two Massachusetts state police officers. Levasseur himself was never charged for these crimes nor was he at the scene of these crimes.

Michele McPhee of The Boston Herald interviewed Donna Lamonoco about the cancellation of the lecture in an article published Nov. 6. Lamonoci is the widow of Phil Lamonoco, the New Jersey State Trooper who was killed by Levasseur’s colleague Thomas Manning in 1981.
“They were treating a terrorist as a hero. The governor was going to let him educate college students at a public school,” Lamonoco said. “a guy who represents an organization that killed my husband that tried to execute two troopers in Massachusetts.”

According to Levasseur, “of the two men who were convicted of the murder one died in prison from lack of medical attention, isn’t that punishment enough?”

Before its cancellation, a release for the event stated that Levasseur would have spoken about his life and the significance of the Springfield sedition trial. The organizers of the event sought to understand the reasons behind the actions of the United Freedom Front.

Several high level academics have voiced their protest on the cancellation of the lecture titled “Ray Luc Levasseur: Defendant in the Great Sedition Trial of Western Mass”.

In a letter to Chancellor, Robert C. Holub, Professor C. G. Caffentzis, a philosophy professor at the University of Southern Maine expressed his concern over the University’s decision to cancel the lecture.

“The lecture was to deal with the crime of sedition, an issue that is important to all students of US history…It was to feature Levasseur, one of the defendants in the country’s last major sedition trial that took place in Springfield in 1989,” Caffentzis said.

“I have no doubt that Levasseur’s lecture and the subsequent discussion would have been the source of knowledge about this the charge of sedition,” Caffentzis added. “We cannot deepen our knowledge of U.S. history without opening the public space in academe to figures who were involved in that very history.”

Police organizations planned on protesting the lecture had the event taken place. Ross Bergen, an undeclared freshman at UMass planned on attending these protests.

“I don’t think he should come to UMass,” said Bergen, “I think his speaking is a mockery to the innocent families his organization has affected. It is wrong that he was even invited to speak at the University.”

Other UMass students have voiced their support for the lecture on the grounds of freedom of speech.

“I definitely feel like he should have been able to speak. I understand why the police department would be concerned,” said Emily Vartabedian, a kinesiology major. “People need to take precautions but should not infringe on a person’s freedom of speech.”

Dan Chard, a graduate student of the UMass History Department, was one of the organizers of the now-cancelled lecture.

“[Levasseur] has never endorsed violence in any of his lectures,” Chard said. “He has spoken at Temple, Columbia, University of Southern Maine and other colleges with little to no opposition, some of them having large crowds”

“Cancelling the talk denied the UMass community an opportunity to learn,” Chard said. “[The lecture] was shutdown because of police pressure. The police are dictating what conversations are off limits to the University and to me that is scary.”

Levasseur said that he and his supporters hope to re-plan his lecture for a venue other than UMass. Levasseur also said that he will issue a release today concerning the rescheduling of his event but would not give further details.

Bobby Hitt can be reached at rhitt@student.umass.edu.

Comments
10 Responses to “Levasseur sedition lecture cancelled by UMass officials is back on”
  1. Mike S says:

    The right to free speech is not the same thing as the right to a forum. And am I correct in assuming that the professors claiming ‘Free Speech’ support the University’s speech code?

  2. Kyle says:

    Actually this event is back on…Check out today’s Boston Herald. This article is pretty weak. Levasseur “a former member of the United Freedom Front” – he was the FOUNDING LEADER of the UFF. Also by discussing his ’89 sedition trial first in the article you marginalize his activities and the fact that he was CONVICTED for the actions of his group.

    Levasseur says he felt terrible watching innocents get killed in Vietnam so he came back to the US and killed innocents??

    Thursday night at UMass will be the show of all shows…Maybe the Collegian can start to get on this story and tell us where it will be and which professors invited this scumbag to come speak.

  3. Kyle says:

    Levasseur should be allowed to speak….but large numbers of people should come and condemn him.

  4. Ed says:

    I think Levasseur should have the same right of free speech that Andrew Card did when he spoke on this campus…

  5. Bruce D. says:

    As an alumni, I have to wonder if this speaker’s sponsors would be as supportive of Ann Coulter, Karl Rove, or (heaven forbid) Sarah Palin as a speaker.

    History has taught us that “Academic Freedom” tends to get applied very selectively.

    I applaud the cancellation – but it is more than disappointing that administration and faculty resisted until now.

    (PS – the governor is absolutely useless!!!)

  6. Feline Rumpenstein says:

    I don’t think anyone wants to hear Ann Coulter speak, regardless of whether it’s a principle concerning the controversy of ideas. If I wanted to stare a gargoyle in the face for 90 minutes, I would take a trip to a French cathedral.

    Ps: she’s also quite the science illiterate.

  7. The land of the enslaved and the home of the coward strikes again.

    We already celebrate terrorists and seditionists. It’s called July 4th. I would love to attend the speech, but unfortunately, I have other things I need to attend to. Gods be with you, Mr. Levasseur.

  8. Tom says:

    This guy is still on parole (22 years left) and lives in a halfway house in Maine.

    The issue here is not his right to speak. No one is arguing that the be censored. The question is whether he should have been extended an invitation and a forum.

    On that point, the UMass professors who re-invited him showed supreme insensitivity. Levasseur’s comment about his pal that killed the cop shows that he still has more sympathy for the criminal than the victim.

    We shouldn’t forget that one of this guy’s bombing (of total strangers at a Boston courthouse) left a man without a leg. This was a group that ambushed two Massachusetts state troopers using machine guns (seen here: http://mysite.verizon.net/vzeopzls/sitebuildercontent/sitebuilderpictures/FordLTD.jpg). We should remember his victims more than his supposed heroism. Some great pictures of the UFF’s reign of terror are below:

    http://www.bostonherald.com/galleries/index.php?gallery_id=3169

    http://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local-beat/NYCs-Most-Prolific-Bomber-Disinvited-From-UMass-69333392.html

    http://www.bostonherald.com/news/regional/view/20091106radical_has_long_history_of_violence/

    http://www.bostonherald.com/news/regional/view.bg?articleid=1209976

  9. nathanforest says:

    Then if this anti white hater is given the right to speak then so should the Honorable David Duke of t he National Association for the Advancement of White People.And Adolf Hitler and Yessar Arafat should not be considered murderers but patriots. Adolf Hitler love his German brothers and Sisters and the same for brother Arafat his love for his Arab Brothers and sisters. and the same should be for Hamas and the Ku Klux Klan for their love of there brothers and sisters. why is it only the jews and blacks can have heros that fight there cause and not considered nuts or terrorist but Christian Whites and Arab Moslems are painted as terrorist and nuts.

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