Free speech prevails
Despite efforts to silence a controversial speaker at Brockport, more than five hundred people were able to listen to him. Jalil Muntaqim spoke to the Brockport community over a zoom call on April 6.
Leading up to the speech, there was much debate as to whether or not Muntaqim should be allowed at SUNY Brockport to speak after being charged with murdering two police officers, Joseph Piagentini and Waverly Jones.
This caused debate not only among students, but the Brockport community. Protests went on for two weeks, with a gathering of Blue Lives Matter protesters arriving on the day Muntaqim spoke, along with Black Lives Matter protesters standing up for Muntaqim.
Assistant Professor Rafael Outland introduced Muntaqim before his speech began.
“Mr. Muntaqim is a member of the Black Panther Party, and was brilliant at school taking many AP courses. He was then captured by police in a midnight shootout. Muntaqim was put in prison for 50 years, and then released on October 7, 2020,” Outland said.
The speech lasted nearly two hours, where Muntaqim mainly focused on racism, white supremacy, mass incarceration, and his experience in the prison system.
During the presentation, Muntaqim said he was being silenced.
“There are individuals out there, particularly law enforcement, who try to silence me,” Muntaqim said.
When speaking about his time in jail, Muntaqim said he was put in jail for reasons other than killing two cops.
“I went to prison for my actions fighting against white supremacy and capitalist imperialism,” Muntaqim said.
Students who were able to listen to the speech via zoom shared their opinions on how they believed it went.
SUNY Brockport Junior Max Wilson said he appreciates what he had to say, and is wondering how this might change things in Brockport for many years to come.
“It was interesting to hear a different perspective on things we have seen on the news such as police brutality from someone who experienced it first-hand. Although it was controversial, I feel like the campus needed to hear it. I wonder how this might affect our campus in the future,” Wilson said.
Junior Lindsay Hummel was surprised that Muntaqim was given a platform to speak to students and faculty.
“I was shocked when I heard that the school was officially bringing Jalil in, especially because of the backlash from some people,” Hummel said.
Hummel felt like the speech will only make tensions higher on campus.
“He never addressed that he murdered two cops, or apologized for it. The talk was just spun into something that I didn’t think it would be,” Hummel explained.
Hummel didn’t believe that it was right for SUNY Brockport to bring in Muntaqim to speak.
“Overall, I don’t think he should’ve been brought to the school because of all the controversy and that it wasn’t 100% agreed upon with all of the students and Brockport community,” Hummel said.
Junior Adam Smith says he was interested while listening to the speech, but was surprised as to how little he talked about the decision he made that lead him to prison.
“I thought he had some very interesting comments on some interesting topics, but I was surprised he didn’t mention as to why he was in prison in the first place,” Smith said. “I thought him coming to our campus brought unneeded publicity and divided us more as a campus and as a community.”
Even though there were many people who tried to silence Muntaqim, his voice was still heard by many in the Brockport community.