April 24, 2007

Student Defends Max Karson, Says Comments Taken Out Of Context

An anonymous student from Max Karson's "Historical and Contemporary Issues of Black Women" class defended the comments he made that led to his arrest last week after the VT massacre:
One student who's in the women's-studies course — who said the class has about 25 women and four men — thinks Karson's comments were taken out of context.

"Max is honest, and people aren't always willing to hear what he has to say," said the student, who didn't want her name published.

She said Tuesday's debate started as an effort to understand how someone could go on a killing spree like the Virginia gunman's.

Karson — who circulates a controversial underground publication called The Yeti on the campus — told his peers that he thinks institutions provoke anger in people, which eventually causes them to "crack," the student said.

"He said, 'Anyone who has walked on this campus and hasn't wanted 30 people dead is lying to themselves,'" she said.

When Karson was asked why institutions make him so mad, the student said Karson used the women's-studies class to illustrate his point: The room was in a basement and had unfinished walls and fluorescent lights.

According to a police report, Karson said: "The basement room with fluorescent lights and the unfinished wall make him angry enough to kill people."

"But I didn't feel threatened," the student said. "He was just theorizing in an intellectual discussion about why people kill."

Police said one of the more-serious comments students reported Karson making that day came as an answer to the question, "Are you going to do something Thursday?"

Karson's reply: "Well, not necessarily this Thursday," according to police.

But the student said that wasn't the end of Karson's statement. She said he added, "Or any other day."

"Generally, Max makes the class uncomfortable, and they disagree with him often," the student said. "But I think people were reacting in fear because 30 people had just died, and they don't want to be one of those people."
This revelation does not immediately exonerate Karson, but certainly contextualizes some of his statements. The case will certainly examine what types of statements constitute enough of a threat to engender fear--and justify the arrest on "interference" charges. If the case is weak, and it looks like it very well could be, then the CUPD arrested Karson for exercising his free speech rights, however off-color or speculative they might be.

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