Last weekend’s violent protests prompt First Amendment conversation – WBKO

Posted: August 18, 2017 at 4:54 am

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) -- Free speech always poses many questions.

Last weekend's violent protests have prompted an important conversation on free speech and peaceful assembly. Several history professors and the community are weighing in on the First Amendment.

"Congress shall make no law...abridging freedom of speech," says the United States Constitution.

"There are several limitations on free speech," explains Dr. Patti Minter, History professor at Western Kentucky University.

Freedom of speech is not protected under certain circumstances.

"You can't shout fire in a theater. And so that kind of idea and incitement to violence is not protected," says Tony Harkins, Associate history professor at Western Kentucky University.

The United States Courts state that right does not include, "the right to incite actions that would harm others."

The First Amendment also reads, "(Congress shall make no law abridging)...the right of the people peaceably to assemble."

"A group of neo-nazis and white supremacists can get a permit to march... to march peacefully," explains Dr. Minter.

Peacefully being the keyword here. However, footage from last weekend in Charlottesville indicates the peace was lost.

"A group came to terrorize, got a permit claiming that they were going to have a peaceful assembly, and they did not," says Dr. Minter.

Some may think that the First Amendment is protected on social media platforms.

"Well social media is very much a double edge sword," says Harkins.

The truth is our rights are not applicable here. Private organizations like Twitter or Facebook have the right to ban anyone or any group from their platforms based on their discretion

"Social media accelerates the view with which those views get shared," says Harkins.

Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, recently made a statement behind the company's decision to remove certain groups and comments, stating, "There is no place for hate in our community. That's why we've always taken down any post that promotes or celebrates hate crimes or acts of terrorism."

At the end of the day, the Bowling Green community says we need a little more of love and respect.

"The need for civility, for conversation, for understanding," says Harkins.

"While also being respectful," says Western freshman, Ania Lander.

The professors intend to use the current events in Charlottesville as a teaching lesson on the first amendment and also as it relates to history.

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Last weekend's violent protests prompt First Amendment conversation - WBKO

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