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International Outrage Sparked By Assumption Student

Friday, April 20, 2012

 

Kevin Forts, Assumption College student

For Clark University sophomore and native Norwegian Johannes Kolberg, speaking one’s mind is a right. However, when Assumption College student Kevin Forts proclaimed his support for Anders Behring Breivik, the mastermind behind the 2011 attacks on a summer camp in Oslo, that privilege turned personal.

“He is entitled to his political views. He supports the massacre of innocent people,” says Kolberg. “He is crossing the line of politics when he agrees that people should be killed.”

22-year-old Forts of Shrewsbury was interviewed in Worcester by VG-TV, a Norwegian television station. In the interview, Forts said that the murder of 77 individuals last summer was brutal but necessary. Assumption College released a statement last night saying Kevin Forts is no longer on campus. Here's the statement: "Kevin Forts will not be on the Assumption College campus for the foreseeable future, and his conduct is under administrative review. Federal law prevents us from commenting substantively on student conduct and records."

“I believe that he used it as an unprecedented attack,” said Forts. “I don’t believe that it should occur again, but I do believe that it was atrocious but necessary in that it has raised awareness for it and Breivik did that with the executions.”

Disgust before outrage

Clark’s Kolberg says the interview topped the headlines in his native country. His immediate response was not one of anger but disgust, a view that other students at Clark share, he says. 

“My first reaction when watching the news online was that he (Forts) has a defunct moral compass since he actually support that man's actions (Breivik). I was not outraged, but utterly disgusted,” says Kolberg. “I also support that the killer has a right to explain his side, but he took away people's futures for his own personal opinion.” 

Forts has reportedly sent letters of support to Breivik’s legal team, and stated in his interview that he did so because of the accused killer’s image being distorted by the media from that of a patriot to one of a neo-Nazi. 

Kolberg says that friends from Norway share his surprise that anyone could share Breivik’s views, especially a student in the same city where they attend college. “They are surprised someone could support anyone who thinks it is OK to kill people,” notes Kolberg. “He is supporting terrorist acts.”

Other Clark students share this confusion, including freshman Patrick Burchat from Templeton. He was with Kolberg when he saw the news coverage of Forts interview. In addition to the shock, Burchat notes that the irony of moving to the United States from Norway and living in the same city as Forts was almost too much for his friend to bear.

“Of all the places for him to end up, he has to be here,” says Burchat. “I don’t know what would be going through my mind.” 

Despite this, Kolberg and Burchat kept an open mind and sent emails to Forts asking him to reconsider his position while offering their personal views on the matter. Burchat says that while he supports anyone having an opinion, Forts position is difficult to swallow. 

“I explained to him that his political view isn’t really focusing on the reality of the situation,” says Burchat. “Innocent people were killed for someone’s political beliefs.” 

Violent Past

In February, Shrewsbury police arrested Kevin Forts for assault and battery involving an on-campus altercation. Forts entered a not guilty plea in Central District Court in February.

Ramifications of radical views 

Forts acknowledges in his interview that he stands alone in his opinions, and that his friends and family are more closely aligned with Norway’s Labor party – a political establishment that he feels Breivik was justified in attacking.

“He’s fighting against cultural Marxism and the Islamization of Norway and he found that the most rational way to accomplish that was through terrorist actions on Utøya and in Oslo,” said Forts.

For Kohlberg, it doesn’t matter if Forts is willing to stand alone. What matters is the impact his words have on others. 

“When do I get to say this is too much? He is entitled to have an opinion, but I strongly disagree with it,” he says. “I don't think he should voice it.” 

Fort’s story is receiving national media attention, and has also garnered him recognition on blogs like The Freedom of Speech Observer. Kolberg wonders if his fellow student from Worcester has thought about the long-term consequences of his views.

“I also urge him to ask himself if he is really, with honest thought, willing to give up his life or the lives of friends and family so that someone else may further their political cause,” says Kolberg. “He is asking other people to be accepting of doing the same.”

Institutions respond to firestorm

Assumption College issued a statement in the minutes after the story broke, citing Forts right to free speech but that the school disagreed strongly with his views. 

"Kevin Forts has expressed his personal opinion on the Breivik case, and as a U.S. citizen, he is afforded that right,” said Renee Buisson, executive director of public affairs for Assumption College. “As a Catholic liberal arts institution dedicated to the moral, intellectual and spiritual integrity of the human person, Assumption College condemns the violence that occurred in Norway last July and does not support the opinions expressed by Mr. Forts. The College extends its sympathy to the victims of the violence and their families.”

The Central Massachusetts office of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Massachusetts responded with a similar statement.

“We support the statement provided by Assumption College on this matter, since the First Amendment ensures freedom of speech, even for speech we strongly dislike or disagree with,” Chris Robarge, the ACLU’s Central Mass. Field Coordinator, said via email. 

That does little to help Clark’s Burchat understand Forts’ motivations.

“I want him to see that this was no different than 9/11,” says Burchat. “People justifying their actions to support their political beliefs.”

 

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