Coulter's actions a bit extreme
The kid was arrested. Ace asks:
You say that you believe in the sanctity of marriage,' said Ajai Raj, an English sophomore. 'How do you feel about marriages where the man does nothing but fuck his wife up the ass?'
Now, I can understand removing the student and even banning him from future events. But arresting him? For what? The police report says he made gestures simulating masturbation as he went back to his seat, but still, that's enough for an arrest? I'm on board with arresting the d-bag that throws a pie at this girl, that's fine, that's assault. But this is nuttier than squirrel turds.
I was wondering that myself. While the kid was a bit rude, he was also within his First Amendment rights, and there were no grounds for his arrest. Eugene Volokh has a more detailed analysis:
The student is not being prosecuted for heckling, in the sense of shouting things while the speaker was speaking; content-neutral heckling bans, I think, would be quite constitutional if properly drafted, but that isn't involved here. Rather, he's being prosecuted for asking "You say that you believe in the sanctity of marriage . . . . How do you feel about marriages where the man does nothing but fuck his wife up the ass?," and then going back to his seat while "making a repeated motion with his right arm and hand, which was cupped in a circular shape, towards his crotch area simulating masturbation." This, the affidavit says, was "disorderly conduct" under Texas law, which is to say "abusive, profane, and vulgar language and obscene gesture," and it's unprotected because it supposedly "incited an imminent breach of the peace of the peace within the crowd," by provoking some of the audience to scream, shout, and boo, and by leading "a few" of Coulter's supporters to "st[an]d up as if to chase down" the questioner.Read the whole thing.
But such speech, even if vulgar, is constitutionally protected unless it contains "personally abusive epithets which, when addressed to the ordinary citizen, are, as a matter of common knowledge, inherently likely to provoke violent reaction." See Cohen v. California, 403 U.S. 15 (1971); Duran v. Furr's Supermarkets, Inc., 921 S.W.2d 778 (Tex. App. 1996).
Simply getting the crowd riled up doesn't make the speech unprotected. Simply saying offensive things to Coulter doesn't make the speech unprotected. If the student had personally called her some epithet, then the matter might have been different. But just asking a rude question that includes a profanity (but not one used to describe Coulter) is not unprotected, and neither is making sexually suggestive gestures (again, when they didn't seem to be personal insults of Coulter).
Update: A commenter makes the point that Coulter had nothing to do with the arrest, and that the title of this post implies that she did. I suppose that that is true, however the title is supposed to be a bit of a double entendre comparing the speakers viewpoint with the actions taken by police, as well as a personal commentary about which speaker (the questioner or Coulter) offends me more. I suppose it's really only a single entendre given that fact, so take it for what it's worth. But the commenter is correct. The decision to arrest was made by the police, and not by Coulter.