Morris Dees discusses justice and freedom for symposium

Tori Bedsole


Sable Riley

Arts & Entertainment Editor

“Today, there are people in this country receiving no justice and no opportunity,” said Morris Dees, the co-founder and chief trial counsel for the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), at the annual M. Stanton Evans journalism symposium on Wednesday, March 22.

According to the SPLC website, the center focuses on fighting hate, teaching tolerance and seeking justice.

“It didn’t end with the death of Martin Luther King Jr.,” Dees said. “Dr. King had to face politicians without courage and a terrorist, a killer with no conscience.”

Dees said the main issues the center is focusing on today include LGBT rights, mass incarceration, health care and immigration. He said immigration is “the big issue.”

He discussed President Donald Trump’s “demagoguery” in reference to his criticism of the media and the threat his rhetoric poses for the freedom of the press.

According to Merriam Webster, a demagogue is “a leader who makes use of popular prejudices and false claims and promises in order to gain power.”

“I have to urge each of you to realize the big piece of this pie that you have,” Dees said. “To have an elected official in this country condemn the press is almost like demagoguery, because that’s what demagogues do—tear down the press.”

Dees said it may be tumultuous for a time, but it won’t last.

“We (the SPLC) are trying to take action for things that matter,” he said. “We live in a changing America.

“There are people in this country facing no justice. I’m not sure I can lay you out a simple solution. It’s just called reconciliation and forgiveness.”

Dees represented Gary Dickey, an editor of Troy State College’s student newspaper, the Tropolitan, in 1967, according to Steve Stewart, assistant professor of journalism and faculty adviser to the Tropolitan.

Dickey had been expelled in a dispute about an editorial and was seeking reinstatement. Citing constitutional issues of free expression, U.S. District Judge Frank M. Johnson ruled in Dickey’s favor.

Ralph Adams was Troy’s president when Dees tried the Dickey case.

Academic freedom on college campuses was influenced by this case.

Dees told stories about the history of social injustice in the South and his accomplishments, such as winning a case for Vietnamese immigrants against the Texas Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.

Students and members of the audience were able to ask questions after the speech. Many questions revolved around ways society can move forward from its checkered past.

Sydney Taylor, a senior multimedia journalism major from Orange Beach, said she enjoyed the experience.

“Journalism is about everything,” Stewart said while introducing Dees. “We want to explore issues and hear from people who are making a difference.

“Both lawyers and journalists seek the truth. They support freedom of expression and human rights.”

“I loved getting to hear about Dees’ experience with Civil Rights cases and his views on current issues in the United States,” Taylor said. ” I was inspired by his suggestion for journalist to continue to tell the truth regardless of the opposition they face. “

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