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Category Archives: Free Speech

Why We Must Still Defend Free Speech – The New York Review of Books

Posted: August 25, 2017 at 3:52 am

This article will appear in the next issue of The New York Review.

Does the First Amendment need a rewrite in the era of Donald Trump? Should the rise of white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups lead us to cut back the protection afforded to speech that expresses hatred and advocates violence, or otherwise undermines equality? If free speech exacerbates inequality, why doesnt equality, also protected by the Constitution, take precedence?

After the tragic violence at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, on August 12, these questions take on renewed urgency. Many have asked in particular why the ACLU, of which I am national legal director, represented Jason Kessler, the organizer of the rally, in challenging Charlottesvilles last-minute effort to revoke his permit. The city proposed to move his rally a mile from its originally approved siteEmancipation Park, the location of the Robert E. Lee monument whose removal Kessler sought to protestbut offered no reason why the protest would be any easier to manage a mile away. As ACLU offices across the country have done for thousands of marchers for almost a century, the ACLU of Virginia gave Kessler legal help to preserve his permit. Should the fatal violence that followed prompt recalibration of the scope of free speech?

The future of the First Amendment may be at issue. A 2015 Pew Research Center poll reported that 40 percent of millennials think the government should be able to suppress speech deemed offensive to minority groups, as compared to only 12 percent of those born between 1928 and 1945. Young people today voice far less faith in free speech than do their grandparents. And Europe, where racist speech is not protected, has shown that democracies can reasonably differ about this issue.

People who oppose the protection of racist speech make several arguments, all ultimately resting on a claim that speech rights conflict with equality, and that equality should prevail in the balance.* They contend that the marketplace of ideas assumes a mythical level playing field. If some speakers drown out or silence others, the marketplace cannot function in the interests of all. They argue that the history of mob and state violence targeting African-Americans makes racist speech directed at them especially indefensible. Tolerating such speech reinforces harms that this nation has done to African-Americans from slavery through Jim Crow to todays de facto segregation, implicit bias, and structural discrimination. And still others argue that while it might have made sense to tolerate Nazis marching in Skokie in 1978, now, when white supremacists have a friend in the president himself, the power and influence they wield justify a different approach.

There is truth in each of these propositions. The United States is a profoundly unequal society. Our nations historical mistreatment of African-Americans has been shameful and the scourge of racism persists to this day. Racist speech causes real harm. It can inspire violence and intimidate people from freely exercising their own rights. There is no doubt that Donald Trumps appeals to white resentment and his reluctance to condemn white supremacists after Charlottesville have emboldened many racists. But at least in the public arena, none of these unfortunate truths supports authorizing the state to suppress speech that advocates ideas antithetical to egalitarian values.

The argument that free speech should not be protected in conditions of inequality is misguided. The right to free speech does not rest on the presumption of a level playing field. Virtually all rightsspeech includedare enjoyed unequally, and can reinforce inequality. The right to property most obviously protects the billionaire more than it does the poor. Homeowners have greater privacy rights than apartment dwellers, who in turn have more privacy than the homeless. The fundamental right to choose how to educate ones children means little to parents who cannot afford private schools, and contributes to the resilience of segregated schools and the reproduction of privilege. Criminal defendants rights are enjoyed much more robustly by those who can afford to hire an expensive lawyer than by those dependent on the meager resources that states dedicate to the defense of the indigent, thereby contributing to the endemic disparities that plague our criminal justice system.

Critics argue that the First Amendment is different, because if the weak are silenced while the strong speak, or if some have more to spend on speech than others, the outcomes of the marketplace of ideas will be skewed. But the marketplace is a metaphor; it describes not a scientific method for identifying truth but a choice among realistic options. It maintains only that it is better for the state to remain neutral than to dictate what is true and suppress the rest. One can be justifiably skeptical of a debate in which Charles Koch or George Soros has outsized advantages over everyone else, but still prefer it to one in which the Trumpor indeed Obamaadministration can control what can be said. If free speech is critical to democracy and to holding our representatives accountableand it iswe cannot allow our representatives to suppress views they think are wrong, false, or disruptive.

Should our nations shameful history of racism change the equation? There is no doubt that African-Americans have suffered unique mistreatment, and that our country has yet to reckon adequately with that fact. But to treat speech targeting African-Americans differently from speech targeting anyone else cannot be squared with the first principle of free speech: the state must be neutral with regard to speakers viewpoints. Moreover, what about other groups? While each groups experiences are distinct, many have suffered grave discrimination, including Native Americans, Asian-Americans, LGBT people, women, Jews, Latinos, Muslims, and immigrants generally. Should government officials be free to censor speech that offends or targets any of these groups? If not all, which groups get special protection?

And even if we could somehow answer that question, how would we define what speech to suppress? Should the government be able to silence all arguments against affirmative action or about genetic differences between men and women, or just uneducated racist and sexist rants? It is easy to recognize inequality; it is virtually impossible to articulate a standard for suppression of speech that would not afford government officials dangerously broad discretion and invite discrimination against particular viewpoints.

But are these challenges perhaps worth taking on because Donald Trump is president, and his victory has given new voice to white supremacists? That is exactly the wrong conclusion. After all, if we were to authorize government officials to suppress speech they find contrary to American values, it would be Donald Trumpand his allies in state and local governmentswho would use that power. Here is the ultimate contradiction in the argument for state suppression of speech in the name of equality: it demands protection of disadvantaged minorities interests, but in a democracy, the state acts in the name of the majority, not the minority. Why would disadvantaged minorities trust representatives of the majority to decide whose speech should be censored? At one time, most Americans embraced separate but equal for the races and separate spheres for the sexes as defining equality. It was the freedom to contest those views, safeguarded by the principle of free speech, that allowed us to reject them.

As Frederick Douglass reminded us, Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Throughout our history, disadvantaged minority groups have effectively used the First Amendment to speak, associate, and assemble for the purpose of demanding their rightsand the ACLU has defended their right to do so. Where would the movements for racial justice, womens rights, and LGBT equality be without a muscular First Amendment?

In some limited but important settings, equality norms do trump free speech. At schools and in the workplace, for example, antidiscrimination law forbids harassment and hostile working conditions based on race or sex, and those rules limit what people can say there. The courts have recognized that in situations involving formal hierarchy and captive audiences, speech can be limited to ensure equal access and treatment. But those exceptions do not extend to the public sphere, where ideas must be open to full and free contestation, and those who disagree can turn away or talk back.

The response to Charlottesville showed the power of talking back. When Donald Trump implied a kind of moral equivalence between the white supremacist protesters and their counter-protesters, he quickly found himself isolated. Prominent Republicans, military leaders, business executives, and conservative, moderate, and liberal commentators alike condemned the ideology of white supremacy, Trump himself, or both.

When white supremacists called a rally the following week in Boston, they mustered only a handful of supporters. They were vastly outnumbered by tens of thousands of counterprotesters who peacefully marched through the streets to condemn white supremacy, racism, and hate. Boston proved yet again that the most powerful response to speech that we hate is not suppression but more speech. Even Stephen Bannon, until recently Trumps chief strategist and now once again executive chairman of Breitbart News, denounced white supremacists as losers and a collection of clowns. Free speech, in short, is exposing white supremacists ideas to the condemnation they deserve. Moral condemnation, not legal suppression, is the appropriate response to these despicable ideas.

Some white supremacists advocate not only hate but violence. They want to purge the country of nonwhites, non-Christians, and other undesirables, and return us to a racial caste societyand the only way to do that is through force. The First Amendment protects speech but not violence. So what possible value is there in protecting speech advocating violence? Our history illustrates that unless very narrowly constrained, the power to restrict the advocacy of violence is an invitation to punish political dissent. A. Mitchell Palmer, J. Edgar Hoover, and Joseph McCarthy all used the advocacy of violence as a justification to punish people who associated with Communists, socialists, or civil rights groups.

Those lessons led the Supreme Court, in a 1969 ACLU case involving a Ku Klux Klan rally, to rule that speech advocating violence or other criminal conduct is protected unless it is intended and likely to produce imminent lawless action, a highly speech-protective rule. In addition to incitement, thus narrowly defined, a true threat against specific individuals is also not protected. But aside from these instances in which speech and violence are inextricably intertwined, speech advocating violence gets full First Amendment protection.

In Charlottesville, the ACLUs client swore under oath that he intended only a peaceful protest. The city cited general concerns about managing the crowd in seeking to move the marchers a mile from the originally approved site. But as the district court found, the city offered no reason why there wouldnt be just as many protesters and counterprotesters at the alternative site. Violence did break out in Charlottesville, but that appears to have been at least in part because the police utterly failed to keep the protesters separated or to break up the fights.

What about speech and weapons? The ACLUs executive director, Anthony Romero, explained that, in light of Charlottesville and the risk of violence at future protests, the ACLU will not represent marchers who seek to brandish weapons while protesting. (This is not a new position. In a pamphlet signed by Roger Baldwin, Arthur Garfield Hays, Morris Ernst, and others, the ACLU took a similar stance in 1934, explaining that we defended the Nazis right to speak, but not to march while armed.) This is a content-neutral policy; it applies to all armed marchers, regardless of their views. And it is driven by the twin concerns of avoiding violence and the impairment of many rights, speech included, that violence so often occasions. Free speech allows us to resolve our differences through public reason; violence is its antithesis. The First Amendment protects the exchange of views, not the exchange of bullets. Just as it is reasonable to exclude weapons from courthouses, airports, schools, and Fourth of July celebrations on the National Mall, so it is reasonable to exclude them from public protests.

Some ACLU staff and supporters have made a more limited argument. They dont directly question whether the First Amendment should protect white supremacist groups. Instead, they ask why the ACLU as an organization represents them. In most cases, the protesters should be able to find lawyers elsewhere. Many ACLU staff members understandably find representing these groups repugnant; their views are directly contrary to many of the values we fight for. And representing right-wing extremists makes it more difficult for the ACLU to work with its allies on a wide range of issues, from racial justice to LGBT equality to immigrants rights. As a matter of resources, the ACLU spends far more on claims to equality by marginalized groups than it does on First Amendment claims. If the First Amendment work is undermining our other efforts, why do it?

These are real costs, and deserve consideration as ACLU lawyers make case-by-case decisions about how to deploy our resources. But they cannot be a bar to doing such work. The truth is that both internally and externally, it would be much easier for the ACLU to represent only those with whom we agree. But the power of our First Amendment advocacy turns on our commitment to a principle of viewpoint neutrality that requires protection for proponents and opponents of our own best view of racial justice. If we defended speech only when we agreed with it, on what ground would we ask others to tolerate speech they oppose?

In a fundamental sense, the First Amendment safeguards not only the American experiment in democratic pluralism, but everything the ACLU does. In the pursuit of liberty and justice, we associate, advocate, and petition the government. We protect the First Amendment not only because it is the lifeblood of democracy and an indispensable element of freedom, but because it is the guarantor of civil society itself. It protects the press, the academy, religion, political parties, and nonprofit associations like ours. In the era of Donald Trump, the importance of preserving these avenues for advancing justice and preserving democracy should be more evident than ever.

August 24, 2017

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Why We Must Still Defend Free Speech - The New York Review of Books

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UC Berkeley chancellor’s message on free speech – Washington Post

Posted: at 3:52 am

Circulated this morning by University of California at Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ:

This fall, the issue of free speech will once more engage our community in powerful and complex ways. Events in Charlottesville, with their racism, bigotry, violence and mayhem, make the issue of free speech even more tense. The law is very clear; public institutions like UC Berkeley must permit speakers invited in accordance with campus policies to speak, without discrimination in regard to point of view. The United States has the strongest free speech protections of any liberal democracy; the First Amendment protects even speech that most of us would find hateful, abhorrent and odious, and the courts have consistently upheld these protections.

But the most powerful argument for free speech is not one of legal constraint that were required to allow it but of value. The public expression of many sharply divergent points of view is fundamental both to our democracy and to our mission as a university. The philosophical justification underlying free speech, most powerfully articulated by John Stuart Mill in his book, On Liberty, rests on two basic assumptions. The first is that truth is of such power that it will always ultimately prevail; any abridgement of argument therefore compromises the opportunity of exchanging error for truth. The second is an extreme skepticism about the right of any authority to determine which opinions are noxious or abhorrent. Once you embark on the path to censorship, you make your own speech vulnerable to it.

Berkeley, as you know, is the home of the Free Speech Movement, where students on the right and students on the left united to fight for the right to advocate political views on campus. Particularly now, it is critical that the Berkeley community come together once again to protect this right. It is who we are.

Nonetheless, defending the right of free speech for those whose ideas we find offensive is not easy. It often conflicts with the values we hold as a community tolerance, inclusion, reason and diversity. Some constitutionally-protected speech attacks the very identity of particular groups of individuals in ways that are deeply hurtful. However, the right response is not the hecklers veto, or what some call platform denial. Call toxic speech out for what it is, dont shout it down, for in shouting it down, you collude in the narrative that universities are not open to all speech. Respond to hate speech with more speech.

We all desire safe space, where we can be ourselves and find support for our identities. You have the right at Berkeley to expect the university to keep you physically safe. But we would be providing students with a less valuable education, preparing them less well for the world after graduation, if we tried to shelter them from ideas that many find wrong, even dangerous. We must show that we can choose what to listen to, that we can cultivate our own arguments and that we can develop inner resilience, which is the surest form of safe space. These are not easy tasks, and we will offer support services for those who desire them.

This September, Ben Shapiro and Milo Yiannopoulos have both been invited by student groups to speak at Berkeley. The university has the responsibility to provide safety and security for its community and guests, and we will invest the necessary resources to achieve that goal. If you choose to protest, do so peacefully. That is your right, and we will defend it with vigor. We will not tolerate violence, and we will hold anyone accountable who engages in it.

We will have many opportunities this year to come together as a Berkeley community over the issue of free speech; it will be a free speech year. We have already planned a student panel, a faculty panel and several book talks. Bridge USA and the Center for New Media will hold a day-long conference on October 5; PEN, the international writers organization, will hold a free speech convening in Berkeley on October 23. We are planning a series in which people with sharply divergent points of view will meet for a moderated discussion. Free speech is our legacy, and we have the power once more to shape this narrative.

Sounds right to me.

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YouGov | Americans wary of extending free speech to extremists – YouGov US

Posted: at 3:52 am

Plus, more than a third of Americans think it should be illegal to join the KKK or American Nazi Party

Americans have always had a problem with free speech. Those in the latest Economist/YouGov Poll are no exception. While the First Amendment may protect speech, many Americans would not allow dangerous speech or speech many of them disagree with.

Thats especially true for speech associated with a group like ISIS. Most Americans Democrats and Republicans would forbid an ISIS supporter from making a speech in their community. It matters little whether someone is personally worried about becoming a terror victim or whether their expectations for an attack on U.S. soil is high or low. All groups oppose ISIS speech.

There are similar reactions when it comes to whether or not a book written by an ISIS supporter should be removed from the public library, though in this case, more than a third oppose removing such a book. But most would fire any ISIS supporter teaching in a college. On these two questions there are party differences: Republicans are 14 points more likely than Democrats to want to remove an ISIS supporters book from the public library and 13 points more like to fire the college teacher. But both would remove the book and fire the teacher.

In the past, the General Social Survey has asked about members of multiple groups giving speeches. The support or opposition to free speech depends on the group asked about with an anti-American Muslim the least likely to be given free speech protection.

The GSS hasnt asked specifically about the Ku Klux Klan, but racist speech is less acceptable in their polls than atheist, militarist, pro-gay (which has become dramatically more acceptable since the 1970s) or Communist speech. In this poll, Americans would not allow a member of the Klan to speak, are divided on whether or not they would remove a Klan book from the public library, and would fire a college teacher who was a Klan sympathizer.

Again, this is not necessarily a matter for partisan debate. Democrats and Republicans would ban a Klan speech, remove a Klan supporters book, and fire a Klan sympathizer from a college teaching position. Trump voters seem to be the most accepting of them: narrow pluralities of Trump voters would allow the speech (49%-39%), and keep the book on the shelves (46% would not remove the book, 39% would).

Feelings are similar when it comes to the free speech rights of neo-Nazis. Americans dont think they should have them. The public would ban the speech, remove the book, and fire the college teacher. Again, Democrats and Republicans agree.

Neo-Nazis and the KKK are decidedly unpopular. Just 6% have a favorable view of the Ku Klux Klan, and 5% are favorable towards neo-Nazis. And these low ratings are across the board whites, blacks, Democrats, Republicans, Trump voters and Clinton voters.

The protection of unpopular speech such as American Civil Liberties Unions defense of the Charlottesville white nationalist protestors is itself not popular. A third approve of the ACLUs actions, 43% disapprove. Democrats, who generally think better of the ACLU than Republicans do, are slightly more likely than Republicans to disapprove.

The Constitution also protects the right of association, and here the public divides on whether or not membership in the Klan or in a neo-Nazi group should be allowed. Just about as many would make it illegal for Americans to join these groups as would permit it.

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With all-hands-on-deck police action, Bay Area cities prepare for ‘free speech’ rallies – The Mercury News

Posted: August 22, 2017 at 11:44 pm

With hundreds of protesters expected to turn out to two free speech rallies in the Bay Area this weekend, police leaders and local officials are now fine-tuning plans to prevent a repeat of the recent violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Their answer so far: huge officer manpower and tighter restrictions on the demonstrators.

In San Francisco, every single police officer will be on duty on Saturday, when a right-wing rally is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. at Crissy Field. Days off have been canceled, said OfficerGiselle

Linnane, a spokeswoman for the San Francisco Police Department.Across the bay in Berkeley, city officials are working to issue new rules for protests lacking city permits, as is the case with Sundays No to Marxism in America rally at Civic Center Park. The new rules, put into force under a hastily passed ordinance, could include a ban of items that could be turned into weapons.

The organizers of the two protests say they have no ties to racist groups. ButBay Area elected officials have condemned both events as white nationalist rallies.

Today and always, we stand together as a community against bigotry, racism, and intolerance and we are stronger for it, Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin said Tuesday on the steps of City Hall. As mayor, I am working closely with officials at every level of government including various law enforcement agencies to keep the peace on Sunday.

Arreguin said that the city still hasnt received any permit applications for the rally, scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. And on Friday, the City Council passed a new ordinance allowing the city manager to issue rules for unpermitted protests. The city managers office and the Berkeley police department did not respond Tuesday to a request for comment.

Berkeley rally organizer Amber Cummings told Bay City News that she doesnt want white nationalists to attend her event. She said she organized the event long before the events in Charlottesville and called Arreguins characterization of the rally as a white supremacy event an outright lie.

The situation in San Francisco is complicated by the fact that the rally is planned to be held in a national park, within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The National Park Service issued a permit for the rally earlier this month but agreed to review it after an outcry from city officials.

Joey Gibson, the organizer of the event whose group, Patriot Prayer, has held events well-attended by white nationalist and other right-wing groups in the past said in an interview Tuesday that he expected his permit would win final approval and they just havent finalized the paperwork.

Dana Polk, a spokeswoman for the park service, said in an email late Tuesday that there was no news yet.

The U.S. Park Police, which will be leading the law enforcement response to the rally, did not respond to a request for comment.But Linnane said the San Francisco Police Department has been holding meetings with the Park Police to plan their response.

Our main goal is nonviolence and to help protect ralliers exercising their First Amendment rights, Linnane said. Well be ready if theres anybody bringing in weapons.

Officials in both cities are urging residents not to counter-protest at the scene of the events in the hopeto avoid violent clashes.We dont want nonviolent protesters to be in a situation where they can be in a middle of a fight, Arreguin said.

Lines of counter-protesters facing off with right-wing demonstrators are exactly what hate groups want, said state Sen. Nancy Skinner, who represents Berkeley and a swath of the East Bay.

They only get attention when we give it to them, Skinner said, quoting former first lady Michelle Obama: When they go low, we go high.'

But some locals, including ReikoRedmonde of the Refuse Facism group, said residents should show up and send a strong message condemning the hate groups.

Maybe people are risking their safety, but shouldnt people have risked their safety early on in the Nazi regime when Hitler came to power? Redmonde asked. Shouldnt they have stood out and not let their neighbors be taken away?

Also on Tuesday, Skinner introduced new legislation that would broaden the states hate crime statute.

In Charlottesville on Aug. 12, Heather Heyer, who is white, was murdered after a white nationalist allegedly drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters.

If Heyer had died the same way in California, the driver wouldnt face hate crime charges because the states statute only covers crimes committed against people in a protected class, such as a racial minority.

Under Skinners bill, SB 630, the hate crime statute would also protect people acting in support of or in defense of protected groups.

Staff writer Tom Lochner contributed to this report.

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With all-hands-on-deck police action, Bay Area cities prepare for 'free speech' rallies - The Mercury News

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The Assault on Free Speech – Wall Street Journal (subscription)

Posted: at 11:44 pm

Wall Street Journal (subscription)
The Assault on Free Speech
Wall Street Journal (subscription)
Two recent events on either side of the globe have underscored the importance of free speechand the peril it faces today. Just days ago, Cambridge University Press yielded to pressure from the Chinese government to remove more than 300 articles from ...

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Free Speech & Firearms – Commonweal

Posted: at 11:44 pm

The heavy weaponry put police at a distinct disadvantage as they tried to maintain safety. Chief Thomas denied that his officers were intimidated by the protesters weapons, but the armaments must have affected their strategy. That some of the counter-protesters also carried riflesthe Redneck Revolt, which styles itself after abolitionist John Brownheightened the fear of a violent confrontation. The fatal weapon turned out to be a Dodge Challenger rather than a firearm. But from the start, firearms made the battle between rival protesters much more than a war of words, or even of fists and sticks. That set the stage for the attack that took the life of Heather Heyer and could well have claimed many more.

No country in the world protects the right to hate speech as strenuously as America, and as painful as that can be at times, it has served the nation well by providing a release valve that repressive societies lack. Such is the American commitment to freedom of expression that even hateful speech advocating violence is lawful unless it is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action. (In the 1969 ruling in Brandenburg v. Ohio, the Supreme Court threw out the conviction of a Ku Klux Klan leader who advocated violence.)

Free speech is a valuable right to protect, and were fortunate that courts have gone to great lengths to preserve it. But the semi-automatic weapons that protesters toted at the Charlottesville rally, along with a collection of shields, clubs and other riot paraphernalia, provided an actively threatening dimension to the violence-tinged speech being exercisedand that should not have been ignored. It was, though. Judge Glen E. Conrads ruling avoids the entire question of whether there was to be an incitement toward imminent lawless action, and makes no mention of the police chiefs concern about guns. Then again, court records indicate that the city of Charlottesville provided the judge with only sketchy details about the danger that firearms added to the Emancipation Park rally.

Still, the city did correctly predict violence. We firmly believe there is a threat of violence if it takes place in Emancipation Park, City Attorney S. Craig Brown told the judge the day before the rally, urging that the protest be moved to a larger park where it would be easier for police to do their job.

What can be done now?

A statement that numerous Catholic organizations issued on August16including Franciscan Action Network, major religious orders and their conferences, and Pax Christioffers the path of vigorous, nonviolent resistance. This is how it concludes:

We are called by our faith to be bold witnesses to nonviolence, and to nonviolently resist any display of hatred and violence.

As Catholics, we uphold the finest traditions and examples of nonviolence, and commit ourselves, in Pope Francis' words, "to make active nonviolence our way of life." Our faith calls on us to accompanyand protect our African American sister and brother, and all God's people, and to work for a day when the Beloved Community will become a reality, and hatred, intolerance, institutional racism, violence and injustice will find no place among us.

But we must be vigilant. Now is the time to be bold, to be public, and to let our voices be heard.

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Free Speech & Firearms - Commonweal

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Boston "free speech" rally ends after counter-protesters take …

Posted: August 20, 2017 at 6:03 pm

BOSTON --Thousands of demonstrators chanting anti-Nazi slogans converged Saturday on downtown Boston, dwarfing a small group of conservatives who cut short a "free speech rally" in a boisterous repudiation of white nationalism, just a week after racially tinged bloodshed in Virginia.

Police confined a small group of "free speech" protesters to the Parkman Bandstand on historic Boston Common as they blocked off the massive counter-protests, CBS Boston reports. The permit issued for the rally came with severe restrictions, including a ban on backpacks, sticks and anything that could be used as a weapon.

Boston's police commissioner, William B. Evans, said an estimated 40,000 people attended the counter-protests and there was very little property damage.

The Boston police department tweeted there were 33 arrests.

A large crowd of people march towards the Boston Commons to protest the Boston Free Speech Rally in Boston, MA, U.S., August 19, 2017.


The Boston Police Department announced at 1:30 p.m. that the "free speech" rally had ended. Police vans escorted conservatives out of the area, and angry counter-protesters scuffled with armed officers trying to maintain order.

Police in riot gear struggled to push the large crowd of counter-protesters away from the area, pushing them back in the area of Boylston and Tremont Streets.

On Twitter, the police department asked "individuals" in the area to refrain from throwing urine, bottles and other "harmful projectiles" at officers. They later confirmed that rocks were thrown at officers.

Several images on social media showed at least one counter-protester burning a Confederate flag.

A protester burns the Confederate flag in Boston on Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017.

Jordan Presley/Twitter

President Trump tweeted on Saturday,applauding the police presence and their responsein Boston. "Looks like many anti-police agitators in Boston. Police are looking tough and smart! Thank you," he wrote.

In a separate tweet, Mr. Trump said, "Great job by all law enforcement officers and Boston Mayor [Marty Walsh]."

He also applauded protesters who were "speaking out against bigotry and hate," saying the country would "soon come together as one!"

Organizers of the "free speech" event had publicly distanced themselves from the neo-Nazis, white supremacists and others who fomented violence in Charlottesville on Aug. 12. A woman was killed at that Unite the Right rally, and scores of others were injured, when a car plowed into counter-demonstrators.

Aerial footage shows where police confined a small group of "free speech" protesters as they blocked off massive counter-demonstrations in Boston.

CBS Boston

John Medlar of the Boston Free Speech Coalition, which organized the event, is a 23-year-old student at Fitchburg State College. He told CBS News correspondent DeMarco Morgan that his group would not tolerate hate speech.

"Reasonable people on both sides who are tolerant enough to not resort to violence when they hear something they disagree with, reasonable people who are actually willing to listen to each other, need to come together and start promoting that instead of letting all of these fringe groups on the left and the right determine what we can and cannot say," Medlar said.

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Police officers in riot gear clashed with protesters following a planned "free speech" rally in Boston on Saturday.Thousands of counter-protester...

Some counter-protesters dressed entirely in black and wore bandannas over their faces. They chanted anti-Nazi and anti-fascism slogans, and waved signs that said: "Love your neighbor," ''Resist fascism" and "Hate never made U.S. great." Others carried banners that read: "Smash white supremacy."

TV cameras showed a group of boisterous counter-protesters on the Common chasing a man with a Trump campaign banner and cap, shouting and swearing at him. But other counter-protesters intervened and helped the man safely over a fence into the area where the conservative rally was to be staged. Black-clad counter-protesters also grabbed an American flag out of an elderly woman's hands, and she stumbled and fell to the ground.

Police Commissioner William Evans said Friday that 500 officers would be deployed to separate the two groups.

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ACLU takes heat for its free-speech defense of white …

Posted: at 6:03 pm

The ACLU has been here before.

In a statement posted Tuesday night, ACLU executive director Anthony Romero insisted hateful, bigoted speech must be aired.

"Racism and bigotry will not be eradicated if we merely force them underground," Romero wrote. "Equality and justice will only be achieved if society looks such bigotry squarely in the eyes and renounces it."

Stacy Sullivan, ACLU associate director of strategic communications, said Wednesday that Romero was trying to answer outside critics as well as ACLU board members, donors and staff working for racial justice and concerned about the representation of white supremacists.

In his statement, Romero referred to the ACLU's history of representing Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan and other detestable groups through the years and tacitly acknowledged the current dissent within ACLU ranks over its litigation ensuring that demonstrators could gather last Saturday in a downtown Charlottesville park.

"The violence of this weekend was not caused by our defense of the First Amendment," Romero wrote, countering critics who have argued that the ACLU's effort to prevent Charlottesville officials from moving the protest out of downtown contributed to the violent confrontations.

Romero's piece was posted Tuesday, soon after Trump had prompted public outrage with his remarks at Trump Tower in New York City about "blame on both sides." Trump's response to the rally of white supremacists and neo-Nazis has become arguably the most contentious of his turbulent seven-month presidency. He has been reluctant to denounce the white supremacists that started it all, instead saying there was blame all around.

The ACLU represented Jason Kessler, organizer of Unite the Right, as the group fought the city's attempt last week to revoke its permit to gather in a downtown Charlottesville park to protest removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. The city had raised safety concerns about the number of demonstrators expected to attend.

US District Court Judge Glen Conrad, who rejected the revocation, noted that the city had left in place permits for counter-protesters near the downtown park and appeared to be targeting white nationalist Kessler for his views.

Some people, including Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, leveled blame at the ACLU for the resulting violence.

"The city of Charlottesville asked for that to be moved out of downtown Charlottesville to a park about a mile and a half away -- a lot of open fields," McAuliffe said on NPR Monday. "That was the place that it should've been. We were, unfortunately, sued by the ACLU. And the judge ruled against us."

McAuliffe contended the result in the middle of downtown was "a powder keg."

Virginia ACLU executive director Claire Gastanaga countered in a statement after McAuliffe's interview, "Our lawsuit challenging the city to act constitutionally did not cause violence nor did it in any way address the question whether demonstrators could carry sticks or other weapons at the events."

She said Charlottesville officials had failed to make the case ahead of time that danger at the downtown park was imminent.

Romero said he thought the Virginia chapter "made the right call here."

"Some have argued that we should not be putting resources toward anything that could benefit the voices of white supremacy," he said. "But we cannot stand by silently as the government repudiates the principles we have fought for -- and won -- in the courts when it violates clearly established First Amendment rights."

Romero referred to the ACLU's nearly century-long history of defending unpopular causes. One of the most prominent instances came in 1978 when the organization represented a neo-Nazi group that wanted to march in the Chicago suburb of Skokie, home to many Holocaust survivors.

As is happening today, some ACLU members said they would resign or stop donating. The ACLU's Sullivan acknowledged that some staffers were upset with the Virginia ACLU's legal work and that the organization was concerned about donors turning away but described the current criticism as "muted" compared to the ACLU's "Skokie moment."

By 6 p.m. Wednesday, 24 hours after Romero's post had gone up, it had generated 75 responses. Most were anonymous and no unanimity emerged among the views. Some commended the ACLU's unequivocal support for free speech. Some said the organization had wrongly ignored crucial safety concerns. Some were torn.

Some referenced the deaths of Heyer and two state troopers killed in a helicopter crash as they helped monitor the Charlottesville scene.

Said one anonymous ACLU member, "I fully support the ACLU's defense of free speech rights, including groups such as the KKK, neo Nazis and other hate groups. However, I am deeply disturbed by the ACLU's decision to oppose local officials in Virginia who sought not to prevent the recent Charlottesville rally but to locate it in a place that would make it easier to keep all in attendance safe. ... (T)hree people are now dead and I cannot escape the thought that my donations may have contributed indirectly to their deaths."

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Thousands of Leftists Expected to Torpedo Boston Free Speech …

Posted: at 6:03 pm

The Boston Free Speech Rally, organized by agroup known as the Boston Free Speech Coalition, invited libertarians, conservatives, traditionalists, classical liberals, (Donald) Trump supporters or anyone else who enjoys their right to free speech. The groupfully distanced itself from the events in Charlottesville last weekend, after violence broke out between a white supremacist rally andAntifa.

Contrary to a lot of the rumors out there, the purpose of the rally is to denounce the kind of political violence that we have seen a sort of rising tide throughout the country, and particularly most recently in Charlottesville, organizer John MedlartoldCNN affiliate WBZ.

Speakers attending the rally include former Infowars reporter Joe Biggs, Republican congressional candidate Shiva Ayyadurai, andLibertariancongressional candidateSamson Racioppi. Other invited speakers, such as commentator Gavin MacInnes and Tim Gionet (also known as Baked Alaska) decided not to attend.

However, Bostons Mayor Marty Walsh confirmed that over 500 police officers will be deployed to oversee the event to prevent any potential violence, as the local Black Lives Matter (BLM) chapter andANSWER Coalition Boston have receivedinterest in planned counter-protests.

It went from a few hundred to well over 1,000 to now roughly 3,000 pretty quickly, said ANSWER Coalition Boston organizer Nino Brown. There are about 10,000 interested in our event, according to Facebook.

Meanwhile, a BLM-organized demonstration called Fight Supremacy saw similar levels of interest, raising more than $20,000 by Thursday night, while expecting over 10,000 attendees.

Boston Police CommissionerBilly Evans confirmed that authorities would be watching the crowd really closely.

I hope anyone who protests and is marching is doing it for the right reason, Evans said. Unfortunately, I think theres going to be a few troublemakers here.

You can follow Ben Kewon Facebook, on Twitter at@ben_kew,oremail him at


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Boston Prepares for Free Speech Rally and Counterprotests …

Posted: at 6:03 pm

(BOSTON) Boston will deploy about 500 police officers on Saturday to prevent possible violence at a free speech rally and planned counterprotests, the mayor and police commissioner said Friday.

"We will not tolerate any misbehavior, violence or vandalism whatsoever," Police Commissioner William Evans said at a City Hall news conference.

The city granted permission for what organizers are calling a free speech rally on Boston Common, but which some people fear is actually a white nationalist event similar to the Unite the Right rally in Virginia last weekend that erupted in violence and left one person dead.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh pointed out that some of those invited to speak "spew hate." Kyle Chapman, who described himself on Facebook as a "proud American nationalist," said he will attend.

"They have the right to gather no matter how repugnant their views are," Walsh said. "We're going to respect their right of free speech. In return they must respect our city."

The Boston Free Speech Coalition says its rally has nothing to do with white nationalism, Nazism or racism and that they are not affiliated with the organizers of the Charlottesville, Virginia, rally.

"While we maintain that every individual is entitled to their freedom of speech and defend that basic human right, we will not be offering our platform to racism or bigotry. We denounce the politics of supremacy and violence," the group said on its Facebook page.

Its permit is for 100 people, though an organizer has said he expected up to 1,000 people to attend.

Organizers of a counterprotest expect thousands of people to join them on a 2-mile (3.2-kilometer) march from the city's Roxbury neighborhood to the Common to "stand in defiance of white supremacy," activist Monica Cannon said.

"I don't think what they are exuding is free speech, I believe it is hate speech," she said at a separate news conference Friday.

Organizers promised a peaceful counterprotest.

Another group is planning a separate "Stand for Solidarity" rally on the Statehouse steps near the Common.

The police presence in Boston will include undercover officers mingling in the crowds and officers on bicycles, Evans said. More officers will be held in reserve in case of trouble. Transit police will increase their presence at subway stations in the area. Weapons of all kinds, even sticks used to carry signs, are banned. The sides will be separated by barricades.

Popular tourist attractions, including the Frog Pond on the Common, and the Swan Boats in the adjacent Public Garden, are being shut down for the day. Streets around the Common are also being blocked to vehicle traffic.

Extra security cameras have been installed at the bandstand where the free speech rally is taking place. Walsh noted it's a spot where Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King Jr., and President Barack Obama have spoken.

State police troopers are also available if needed, Gov. Charlie Baker said.

"We're going to do everything we can to make sure tomorrow is about liberty and justice, and about freedom and peace," he said.

Boston isn't the only city preparing for such a rally.

Dallas police said Friday they will have extra officers on duty for a rally against white supremacy planned for City Hall Plaza on Saturday night.

Supporters of keeping the city's Confederate monuments have also posted on social media about a counterprotest, but it was unclear Friday whether that event would occur.

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