Follow us on social

In reversal, school paper to fight charges against students over parody

In reversal, school paper to fight charges against students over parody

The decision comes after fierce backlash from students and faculty as well as reporting by RS/ The Intercept

Reporting | QiOSK

In a major reversal, Students Publishing Company (SPC) — the parent company of Northwestern University’s student newspaper — announced today that it will now help fight criminal charges against two Northwestern students over a pro-Palestinian parody attacking the university’s stances on the war in Gaza.


“As of yesterday, we have hired legal counsel to work on our behalf with the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office to pursue a resolution to this matter that results in nothing punitive or permanent,” SPC board chairman John Byrne wrote in a statement. The decision does not guarantee that prosecutors will drop the charges, but it does ratchet up the pressure to do so.


The news comes less than two days after RS and The Intercept reported a growing wave of backlash against the charges from students, faculty, and alumni of the school.


The charges were brought under a little-known law called theft of advertising services, which appears to only exist in California and Illinois and was originally passed to stop Ku Klux Klan members from inserting unauthorized advertisements into newspapers.


The students, both of whom are Black, allegedly wrapped the parody newspaper around several hundred copies of the Daily Northwestern itself, opening them up to prosecution under the statute. They now face up to a year in jail under the class A misdemeanor — the harshest level of criminal charge below a felony.


“It’s very clear that this is a discriminatory action,” a former Daily Northwestern editor and current student told RS/ The Intercept over the weekend. Another student worried the charges would have a “chilling effect on speech” related to Israel’s war in Gaza.


The board previously doubled down in its support of the charges despite backlash, saying in a statement Monday that “tampering with the distribution of a student newspaper is impermissible conduct.” The SPC is independent from the university, but its board includes prominent alumni as well as several current students and faculty members.


In the new statement, Byrne said SPC was unaware until recent days that the people charged were Black and Northwestern students. “Some may disagree, but these facts matter to us,” he wrote.


Byrne, an attorney who works as a marketing executive at a Chicago law firm, confirmed that SPC asked university police to investigate the incident and that the board had signed complaints against the accused students. The statement claims that SPC “didn’t understand how these complaints started a process that we could no longer control – and something we never intended,” adding that they were never formally informed that charges had been brought.


“We understand and recognize why we need to take action,” Byrne wrote. “We hope to heal the hurt and repair the relationships that have been damaged and frayed by our unintentional foray into the criminal justice system.”


It remains to be seen how the school’s community will respond to SPC’s decision. More than 70 student groups have pledged to boycott the Daily Northwestern by refusing to speak to its reporters until the charges are dropped, a decision that now lies solely in the hands of local prosecutors.

Ken Wolter/ Shutterstock

Reporting | QiOSK
Diplomacy Watch: Russia could be invited to Ukraine-led peace talks

Diplomacy Watch: Russia could be invited to Ukraine-led peace talks

QiOSK

Ukraine would consider inviting Russian officials to a peace summit to discuss Kyiv’s proposal for a negotiated end to the war, according to Andriy Yermak, the Ukrainian president’s chief of staff.


“There can be a situation in which we together invite representatives of the Russian Federation, where they will be presented with the plan in case whoever is representing the aggressor country at that time will want to genuinely end this war and return to a just peace,” Yermak said over the weekend, noting that one more round of talks without Russia will first be held in Switzerland.

keep readingShow less
Biden officials want Russian frozen assets to fund Ukraine war
Janet Yellen, United States Secretary of the Treasury. (Reuters)

Biden officials want Russian frozen assets to fund Ukraine war

QiOSK

On Tuesday, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen strongly endorsed efforts to tap frozen Russian central bank assets in order to continue to fund Ukraine.

“There is a strong international law, economic and moral case for moving forward,” with giving the assets, which were frozen by international sanctions following Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine, to Kyiv, she said to reporters before a G7 meeting in San Paulo.

keep readingShow less
Will Michigan ‘uncommitted’ disaster wake Biden up on Gaza?

Activist Layla Elabed speaks during an uncommitted vote election night gathering as Democrats and Republicans hold their Michigan presidential primary election, in Dearborn, Michigan, U.S. February 27, 2024. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

Will Michigan ‘uncommitted’ disaster wake Biden up on Gaza?

QiOSK

A protest vote in Michigan against President Joe Biden’s handling of the war in Gaza dramatically exceeded expectations Tuesday, highlighting the possibility that his stance on the conflict could cost him the presidency in November.

More than 100,000 Michiganders voted “uncommitted” in yesterday’s presidential primary, earning 13.3% of the tally with most votes counted and blasting past organizers’ goal of 10,000 protest votes. Biden won the primary handily with 81% of the total tally.

keep readingShow less

Israel-Gaza Crisis

Latest