Extra security measures will be in place for the Morris Dees lecture at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 16, in the auditorium of O’Shaughnessy Educational Center.
Dees is one of the nation’s top civil-rights lawyers. No specific threats have been received in connection with his talk at St. Thomas, but over the years his life has been threatened many times and his offices burned. While the security measures are an unusual step at St. Thomas, they are not unusual when Dees presents a public lecture.
No book bags, backpacks or purses will be allowed in the auditorium, according to the St. Thomas Public Safety Office. Those who bring packs or bags to the lecture will be asked to leave them in a guarded coat-check room that will be located in Room 203 of O’Shaughnessy Educational Center.
Also, all those attending the lecture must pass through metal detectors that will be temporarily installed at the entrance to the auditorium.
The coat-check room will open at 6:30 p.m., and the auditorium will open at 6:45 p.m. In event of an overflow crowd, the Dees lecture can be seen on video monitors elsewhere in O’Shaughnessy Educational Center or next door in the Murray-Herrick Campus Center. The location of the monitors, if required, will be announced that evening.
The St. Thomas Public Safety Office will have extra officers on duty that evening, and they will be assisted by a team of officers from the St. Paul Police Department.
The talk, sponsored by St. Thomas’ University Lectures Committee, is free and open to the public. For more information call the committee at (651) 962-6136.
Dees began helping minorities in court during the civil rights movement and in 1971 co-founded the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit group that maintains a pool of lawyers who specialize in lawsuits involving civil rights violations and racially motivated crimes.
When Klan members lynched an African American man in Alabama in 1981, Dees and the center sued the Klan for inciting violence and won a $7 million precedent-setting judgment. Ten years ago he won a $12.5 million verdict for the family of an Ethiopian murdered by skinheads in Oregon, and two years ago he obtained a record $37.8 million verdict against the Christian Knights of the Ku Klux Klan for the burning of the Macedonia Baptist Church in South Carolina.
Dees, a University of Alabama Law School graduate, also helped develop “Teaching Tolerance,” the Southern Poverty Law Center’s education project.
He was named a “Trial Lawyer of the Year” by the Trial Lawyers for Public Justice, and received the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Award from the National Education Association.
Most recently he has been educating people about America’s radical militia movement and in 1996 wrote the expose, Gathering Storm: America’s Militia Threat. He also has written an autobiography, A Season for Justice, and Hate on Trial: The Case Against America’s Most Dangerous Neo-Nazi. His life was the subject of a made-for-television movie, Line of Fire, broadcast by NBC in 1991.