OK, I was wrong on one point ("Speech limits," Aug. 31). Members of hate groups should not just wallow in the filth of their beliefs in private. They can still wallow in it in public places, such as on their deceitful radio and TV stations, in their creepy books, and when giving their hallowed speeches. But I still think they should not be granted permits for public rallies. In "Freedom of speech under fire" (Sept. 14), Al Fonzi writes, "Allowing the government to censor the speech of unpopular groups will inevitably lead to suppression of all views not approved by the government." This is a slippery slope fallacy. The part of the First Amendment addressing freedom of peaceful assembly was written with the intent of having exceptions, hence the word peaceful. According to the Library of Congress, "The First Amendment does not protect the right to conduct an assembly at which there is a clear and present danger of riot, disorder, or other immediate threat to public safety or order."
Rallies held by members of hate groups have and will continue to most certainly create clear and present danger of riots, disorder, and immediate threats to public safety and order, like what happened in Charlottesville. Fonzi writes "The facts revealed it was the failure of the police to keep Antifa counter-protestors apart from Klansmen and Nazis that led to the riot." The white supremacists did not come to the rally to exercise their right to free speech. They came together for a common intent, to promote fear, intimidation, threats, and to incite violence. Witnesses said they stormed in like a militia and heard comments such as, "We are not non-violent. We'll fucking kill these people if we have to," and, "I think a lot more people are going to die before we're done here." They were ultimately responsible for the violence.
There were plenty of other counter-protesters there, and I'm sure if the Antifa would not have been there, the violence would have still occurred and may have been worse. The police could have done more, but I'm positive there still would have been violence. Besides, not all communities have the resources to train and provide the amount of police needed to keep the peace for rallies that promote and incite lawlessness.
Anyway, the police should not have to be put in this position. It is like allowing people to purposefully set fires and then expecting firefighters to put them out, without any damage or injuries. Then if there are, the firefighters are blamed.
Would one call a rally peaceful just because it took 200 police officers to prevent a riot? Would a permit be granted to groups like League of Women Haters, who are promoting rape and murder? How about to the United Child Molesters or to the American Animal Abusers? Does one think these would be peaceful? If not, how are hate groups any different? They are violent by nature and incite violence.
At the planned rally in Boston, 500 police were present. Obviously, they expected a riot, clear and present danger, and imminent lawlessness. If so, why was the permit even granted in the first place?
In the past, when the KKK held public rallies, most people hid away or just stood by, sometimes out of solidarity, but mostly out of fear and intimidation. Now, people are less likely to stand by.
In addition, I can't imagine a hate rally that would not generate threats against specific individuals and incite violence. Due to this, the likelihood of riot, disorder, and threats to public safety has increased dramatically. This is not all bad, with counter-protesting increasing, but it does give further cause for the denial of permits.
Fonzi gives the sincere but naive argument that "objectional speech is best opposed by reasoned speech" and quotes one who says "free speech allows us to resolve our differences through public reason." But this does not apply to all people. Patrick McGrath writes: "Fascism does not arise from rational sources. It does not require rational argument to sustain its followers. Fascists are deaf to reason. They sneer at reasonable argument." This is why the Antifa use violence against them. They see it as the only means, as a last resort.
Also, I do not believe in the argument that allowing hate groups to rally is a way of allowing them to let off steam. Rallies give them a stage for their violence. I think it is a way of adding fuel to their fire and when inevitable violence does break out, it allows them to play victims. It makes counter-protestors look like partners in crime. It is most disturbing when Fonzi used the words to describe members of hate groups as those with "objectional views" and having "unpopular beliefs" and allude to those who may oppose those groups as "intolerant left-wing mobs" rather than just common, decent human beings. Yikes!
In regards to the young woman who stated that Dr. Robert Spencer should not be allowed to speak at Cal Poly: Given that he, according to Wikipedia, has been accused of "falsely constructing a divide between Islam and the West" and is the co-founder of two anti-Muslim hate groups, her statement has some merit. She should be proud of her insight.
Peaceful does not mean everything and anything, so we have to draw the line somewhere. Janai Nelson of NAACP says that "calling out extremists, white supremacists, and neo-Nazis is an important, but very low bar for where we should be as a society, at this stage in our democracy." One way to step over this bar is to deny hate groups permits to rally.
Freedom of speech is not under fire, hate groups are, as they deserve to be. Δ