It’s become commonplace for people who don't like a speaker or a public discussion in some other public forum to demonstrate their displeasure by disrupting the meeting or hearings or proceedings or event with the apparent goal of preventing, silencing, i.e., not allowing the other side to be heard.
Some are now arguing this is their “right,” and that it is good and proper to silence opposing points of view. We hear this argument on both the Left and the Right.
This is a dangerous trend. It suppresses the First Amendment, and it is not what a free country is about - again, whether one likes or supports the speaker, or the points being shared.
Let’s take a moment for a much-needed Civics 101 lesson.
1—Is protest legal in the US? Yes, in this free country it is, as long as the protest is peaceful and nonviolent, i.e. not harming people, others’ property, impeding people’s progress on public thoroughfares, or otherwise creating a threat to public safety.
2—Do I have to agree with protesters to agree with their freedom to protest? No.
3—Should protestors (or speakers) with whom I disagree be silenced? No, this idea and now increasingly common tactic is at fundamental odds with the constitutional principle of freedom of speech or expression.
4—If the point of protest is to draw attention to something considered troublesome, isn’t it logical that the more outrageous the protest the more likely it will elicit response? Yes and No. Yes, outrageous is OK, as long as it fits within #1. No, outrageous may backfire on protesters, eliciting not a response to their views but to their methods.
5—Is protest “bad”? No, not really. It is part of what it means to live in a free, open, pluralistic, and democratic society.
6—Do American citizens have the “right” to protest anywhere, anytime, for any reason? Yes and No. Yes, as long as it fits in #1. No, if it violates #1, and No, in that protest is not ipso facto a right in private or even public places because along with a "right" comes "responsibility."
There seems to be an entire generation or more of the American public who evidence little knowledge of the US Constitution, the Bill of Rights, or case law about fundamentals of a free society. They’ve grown up or are growing up with no instruction, or if they were taught about civics they were taught with a bias. What’s scary about this is that older political leaders, many of whom know better and who do understand the fundamentals of our free society, are going along with or encouraging this new view because they think it translates to political power for their Party or viewpoints. Some of them, particularly on the Left, are arguing the US Constitution and/or the Bill of Rights be revised or even thrown out and rewritten.
This is also threatening, trading principle and proven, reasoned and reasonable process for power.
© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2019
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