On Monday, University of Connecticut Police arrested two students who had been captured on video shouting a racial slur. The video was taken from inside an off-campus apartment building, where three young men can be seen walking through a parking lot, apparently playing a game where people go back and forth yelling obscenities. I can vouch for this being an actual thing that young people have done for years.
The video ended up going viral and caught the attention of the UConn NAACP chapter, who wrote a letter to the editor of the campus newspaper, The Daily Campus, demanding that university officials “fully investigate this incident and apply the proper justice.” This led to campus police arresting two of the three students seen in the video under a Connecticut state statue that makes it illegal to ridicule certain protected persons.
Any person who, by his advertisement, ridicules or holds up to contempt any person or class of persons, on account of the creed, religion, color, denomination, nationality or race of such person or class of persons, shall be guilty of a class D misdemeanor.”
UConn spokeswoman Stephanie Reitz confirmed to Campus Reform that the two students “heard shouting a racial slur” had been arrested.
The two students both were charged under CGS 53-37, ridicule on account of creed, religion, color, denomination, nationality or race. A third person had accompanied them as they walked outside of the apartments, but the police investigation determined that individual had not participated in the behavior.”
The students have been identified as Ryan Mucaj and Jarred Karal, both 21 years old. They will be appearing in court on October 30 and could face $50 fines, 30 days in jail, or both.
UConn President Thomas Katsouleas commented on the situation:
It is supportive of our core values to pursue accountability, through due process, for an egregious assault on our community that has caused considerable harm. I’m grateful for the university’s collective effort in responding to this incident, especially the hard work of the UConn Police Department, which has been investigating the case since it was reported.”
Eugene Volokh, a UCLA law professor, commented on the statute under which these young men were charged in a 2018 column:
[it is] obviously unconstitutional, because it suppresses speech based on its content (and viewpoint), and because there’s no First Amendment exception for speech that insults based on race or religion.”
Campus Reform points out that this occurred less than a month after NYC banned use of the term “illegal alien” and also happened the same week that Massachusetts lawmakers debated imposing a fine of $200 for use of the word “bitch.” They also point to a Knight Foundation survey that found 41 percent of college students do not think that “hate speech” should be protected under the 1st Amendment.