Students Protest Peter Cvjetanovic After Senior Thesis Presentat - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe Sparks News, Weather, Video

Students Protest Peter Cvjetanovic After Senior Thesis Presentation

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This week, a group of protesters chanted while following a controversial University of Nevada student, Peter Cvjetanovic, after his senior thesis presentation.

You may recall, Cvjetanovic rose to the national spotlight after attending "Unite the Right," a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia last summer.

Since then, he has been criticized for his extremist views.

We spoke with Assistant Professor Ben Birkinbine, who teaches Media Studies, including free speech classes, at the University of Nevada, Reno. Birkinbine says people on both sides of the issue were within their rights. 

In the video, you can see the protesters following Cvjetanovic through the UNR Knowledge Center after they waited while he presented his History senior thesis presentation.

Birkinbine says, "To express their displeasure at him and his ideology and what he's come to represent." We asked if he saw any wrongdoing as far as the First Amendment goes, he said, "I don't see anything being done wrong in the video necessarily from a legal standpoint." Both sides, Birkinbine says, have ground to stand on.

The same applies to the standpoint Cvjetanovic originally defended, participating in the white nationalist rally. Birkinbine added, "I want to make it clear that I do not agree with Peter's views, but I will also acknowledge the fact he has a right to say it."

Wednesday's protest continued through the library. Birkinbine says some of his students did say it disturbed their studying during finals week. To which the assistant professor responded, "They also have a right to protest and sometimes the point of that protest is to kind of jar people out of everyday activities to draw attention to an issue."

Ultimately, Birkinbine says, there's an important differentiation and free speech lesson to be learned from all of this. He explains, "I prefer to talk about human rights and free speech being one of those rights, that should be granted to all human beings." Even if you disagree, he continued, "Opinions are meant to be debated, and particularly the merits of those opinions; but people have a right to be respected. So, we should respect the people, while debating the issues at the same time."

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