Arkansas law used to suppress pro-Palestinian speakers

An Honors College spokeswoman said Dr. Coon was not available for an interview, but pointed to a statement that increased interest in the panel had led to the need to accommodate “a larger audience and panel wide” in spring.

At the university, the issue has wreaked havoc among some students, who say they dare not organize the type of pro-Palestinian protests seen on other campuses. Private group chats between Muslim and pro-Palestinian students are on fire, but they are reluctant to speak publicly, said one student, head of the Muslim Student Association, who asked that his name not be used for fear of negative public reactions.

“The lines are so blurred between what’s allowed and what’s not,” he said, citing state law and the panel’s recent cancellation. “There’s kind of an underlying fear of saying something you’re not allowed to say and being reprimanded for it.”

In 2018, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against Arkansas’ anti-boycott law on behalf of The Arkansas Times, a news magazine based in Little Rock, Arkansas.

For years, the University of Arkansas Pulaski Technical College placed ads in the news magazine. But when told he would have to sign the pledge to continue the relationship, the publisher, Alan Leveritt, said he hesitated. He had no intention of boycotting Israel but nevertheless refused to sign the pledge, he explained, because the government should not dictate his political views.

“I’m a taxpayer,” he said. “My family has lived in Arkansas for God knows how many generations. Yet I cannot do business with my own state government unless I bow to a foreign government.”

Not signing the pledge was a difficult decision for Mr Leveritt. The Arkansas Times, a free publication, relied heavily on advertising, particularly from the state.

But a federal district court upheld the Arkansas law. And the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit – the only federal appeals court to rule on any of the anti-boycott laws – upheld the ruling, saying the ban regulated non-expressive commercial activities and did not violate not the first amendment.

The United States Supreme Court upheld the appeals court’s decision.

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