Updated August 29
Harvard Law professor and high-profile defense attorney Alan Dershowitz will discuss his new book, “Defending Israel: The Story of My Relationship with My Most Challenging Client,” at the West Tisbury library on Wednesday, Sept. 4.
The talk, which begins at 4 pm, has caused some Islanders to voice their concerns over the controversial author and public figure.
Beth O’Connor told The Times in a phone call that she plans on protesting at the library during the discussion. She said she will be “standing up” for all the women who were victimized by Dershowitz’s past client, Jeffrey Epstein.
O’Connor said that although she supports the right to free speech, she doesn’t agree with the library allowing Dershowitz to sell and promote his book during the event. She said at least a “handful of folks” will be at the library for the protest, and they have the go-ahead from library staff.
“We are in the process of talking with local officials to determine the boundaries of the protest,” O’Connor said. “We want to get as many people to participate as possible.”
Epstein, a convicted sex offender, was recently found dead in his jail cell while awaiting trial for a slew of sex-trafficking charges, according to published reports.
In a phone conversation with The Times on Wednesday, Dershowitz said people are entitled to protest and voice their opinions. “I think protests are good,” Dershowitz said. “They’re a lot better than what the Chilmark library did.”
According to Dershowitz, the Chilmark library recently banned him because of his “purported support” of President Donald Trump.
“I do not support Trump, I support constitutional rights,” Dershowitz said. “I welcome protest, I welcome dissent — I do not support banning or censorship.”
According to Dershowitz, the Chilmark library “found excuses” for banning him, of which he said the latest is, “You are just too popular; you fill up the room beyond its capacity.”
“Obviously it’s a phony excuse,” he added.
Chilmark library director Ebba Hierta said the library has not banned Dershowitz, and actually attempted to find him another venue to speak at when they could not accommodate him.
“The things that Alan said are slanderous and patently false,” Hierta said. Both this year and last year, Hierta said, Dershowitz contacted the library about a speaking event.
“Both times, we told him our schedule was fully booked through September,” Hierta said. Last year, Hierta said the library offered Dershowitz a time to speak in October, but he turned it down.
According to Hierta, the library was receiving complaints about Dershowitz’s speaker events disturbing normal operations by being too large.
Hierta said the Chilmark library meeting room holds 60 people at maximum — a policy the library must enforce.
“We have a fire code. We have had to turn other speakers away because of this too, not just Dershowitz,” Hierta said.
“I took great pain in trying to find him another speaking venue. I advocated for him when we said we didn’t have enough space. No banning, no shunning,” Hierta said.
“If people disagree with my views, let them. It is entirely within their rights,” Dershowitz said.
He mentioned that he won’t shy away from any critical questions during the discussion.
Most recently, Dershowitz has been associated in the media with his past client, Epstein.
According to a report by the Washington Post, Dershowitz was accused of involvement in the American financier and convicted sex offender’s sex-trafficking ring, but denied any involvement.
Other controversial past clients of Dershowitz’ include O.J. Simpson, Claus Von Bulow, and Harvey Weinstein.
Last summer, Dershowitz gained attention when he alleged he was “shunned” by Martha’s Vineyard inner circles after defending President Donald Trump, saying that many of the president’s actions were protected under the U.S. Constitution.
Dershowitz caught some flack after standing his ground on Trump’s constitutional rights at a talk at the Katharine Cornell Theater, where he promoted his 2018 book “The Case Against Impeaching Trump.”
At the talk, he called himself a “quintessential liberal,” and defended Trump from claims that he should be impeached. Dershowitz suggested that if Hillary Clinton had been elected and he was defending her from impeachment, he would be “the hero of Martha’s Vineyard.”
Updated to include comments from Chilmark library director Ebba Hierta. – Ed.