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By Paul Meekin
Following the recent race-motivated stabbings in Portland, Oregon, Mayor Ted Wheeler has called for the cancellation of two ‘Alt-Right’ rallies in the city. The first titled the ‘Trump Free Speech’ Rally, and the second is a “March Against Sharia.”
“I am calling on the federal government to IMMEDIATELY REVOKE the permit(s) they have issued for the June 4th event and to not issue a permit for June 10th…Our city is in mourning, our community’s anger is real, and the timing and subject of these events can only exacerbate an already difficult situation.”
No, I didn’t know the federal government issued rally permits either.
Wheeler has previously stated he hoped the stabbings would inspire dialog. Which makes banning one side of that dialog is an interesting way to go about it, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) agrees. The Legal Director of Oregon’s ACLU – Mat Dos Santos, stated while the Mayor may be well intentioned, it’s concerning to see a government official get the law so wrong.
“He’s a government official, and he’s sworn to uphold the Constitution — even when it isn’t politically popular.” Said Santos. He’s right, but I am not without Empathy for Mayor Wheeler. Is having a pro-Trump and anti-Muslim rally so soon after the events of the stabbing a good idea? Probably not. But it’s the right idea.
In the face of tragedy one of the most important things a community can do is continue to uphold the beliefs it holds most dear – even if they’re unpopular or make you feel icky or wrong. In this case – free speech for unpopular opinions.
This has been the basis of the ACLU for ages, and while they seem to have few fans in Libertarian circles, they’ve been a bastion and champion of free speech and Civil Liberties for ages – from the KKK in Skokie to gun rights for the mentally impaired, to fighting civil asset seizure laws in Illinois, the L in ACLU has been represented strongly in recent months.
Let me ask you this: Are these upcoming events designed to incite violence? Is a “Free Speech” Rally designed result in more stabbings? Is a rally that’s specific to being anti-Sharia the same as being entirely anti-muslim?
Most important, what’s more likely to result in violence? A scheduled, properly permitted rally, or the riot that will result if these events are cancelled?
Mr. Wheeler, I think you may want to reconsider.
When asked if banning the speech was constitutional, the Mayor’s spokesperson said it was ‘right’ and the concern for potential violence took precedence…which doesn’t really answer the question.
Of course, in 2017, unanswered questions are a way of life.