After student and faculty protests Monday (Nov. 9) on the University of Missouri campus in Columbia, the Missouri Press Association (MPA) declares its support for MU student photographer Tim Tai and denounces the role students and staff played in attempting to prevent news media from covering events at the university.
“The actions and words captured on video of MU students and staff are disappointing to advocates of free speech and the First Amendment,” MPA President Jim Robertson said. “Public areas on the university campus are public for all individuals and the attempts by some to keep media from documenting the protests show a disturbing misunderstanding of how the First Amendment protects all individuals’ rights and freedoms.
“The university is a taxpayer-funded institution representing not only the students who currently attend, but alumni everywhere and residents of the state at large. Student photographer Tim Tai should be commended for not only defending his First Amendment rights to document the student and faculty protests on the MU campus, but doing so in such a manner as to avoid escalating tension.”
The Missouri Press Association is a statewide trade association of 275 Missouri newspapers. Robertson is also managing editor of the Columbia Daily Tribune.
Tai was on freelance assignment for ESPN Nov. 9, was attempting to take photos of a tent city erected on the university campus by protesters.
The protesters had gathered at the scene to urge increased awareness of racial issues on campus. A video showing some of the protesters, including two MU staff, restricting the photographer’s access to the public area on campus, also depicted protesters physically blocking Tai’s view, eventually pushing him away.
In the video, Tai reminded protesters of his First Amendment right to be present and to document the events taking place.
The Missouri Press Association fully supports Tai’s First Amendment stance and reminds people that access to public space, such as the grounds of a university funded by taxpayers, is available to all citizens, without prejudice, Robertson said.
The video shot by Mark Schierbecker can be viewed on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xRlRAyulN4o.
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