Georgetown Law students learned on late Sunday evening and Monday that Attorney General Jeff Sessions would be speaking on campus on Tuesday "about free speech on college campuses". As he spoke, some students wearing all black sat with black tape across their mouths in protest.
"To those of those who were not allowed to be in the room, it seems an bad lot like the one who had a fragile ego was the attorney general, because he could not stand the thought of having students asking questions that were not pre-screened", Phillips said.
He called college administrators' giving into protesters' demands to rescind invitations for some speakers as giving into "the heckler's veto".
"Freedom of thought and speech on the American campus are under attack", Sessions plans to say.
"No matter what you think of Hillary Clinton or President Trump, you should stand when the national anthem is played", Sessions said. At Middlebury College in Vermont in March, protests outside the speech of a conservative political scientist devolved into a shoving match that left one professor hospitalized. "We will enforce federal law, defend free speech, and protect students' free expression from whatever end of the political spectrum it may come", he said.
"Today we stand together united in the name of free speech at Georgetown", one of the speakers at the protest said.
By 12:20 p.m., the crowd of demonstrators had thinned to about half its earlier size.
Sessions' speech focused on speech codes and other college imposed restrictions on free expression.
Some welcomed the opportunity to hear from the top law-enforcement officer and top lawyer in the US government. "The American university was once the center of academic freedom - a place of robust debate".
Meanwhile, Sessions maintained freedom of thought and speech are under attack on college campuses.
That statement of interest pertainsto an ongoing case involving the right of a campus Christian group to proselytize at a Georgia college, which Session did not name.
"While we agree that students should feel free to voice their opinions and beliefs in the classroom, the First Amendment grants this protection outside of the classroom as well", Hand said.
Sessions addressed the apparent discrepancy head on, in response to a student's submitted question.
"Someone shared the general form [to sign up], which had no restrictions beyond having to be a student", says Daniel Blauser, a third year law student at Georgetown and the president of the Georgetown Law American Constitution Society.
"In this great land", Sessions also said, "the government does not get to tell you what to think or what to say".
Joshua Spielman, 29, a Georgetown law student in the audience, said he felt it was important for the university to "uphold the values of allowing all speech". It is the left that must defend and rationalize its objections to the free and open expression of ideas and the spirit and word of the Constitution's First Amendment.
They posed the questions they had prepared for Sessions through a megaphone and later "took a knee", a symbolic gesture made famous by NFL players during the national anthem at football games as an act of protest against police brutality and racial inequality.
In a statement, Boise State officials argue the part of the code Sessions cited only applies to disorderly conduct.
Berkeley has been the most visible flash point, but similar philosophical fights have played out at many other campuses as well.