By Seth Richardson
The United States has a long history of tolerating protest and exercises of free speech, especially by students, but of late, an honorable tradition has been debased by leftists, Progressives, union goons and various flavors of religious zealots who abuse their right of protest by exercising what amounts to a “heckler’s veto” over the equally protected free speech of people they don’t like.
We’ve all seen the videos of conservative speakers on college campuses being shouted down and pied in the face and otherwise heckled and prevented from exercising their right to speak freely at events to which they had been invited by other students and the violent protests of SEIU union goons who physically attack people who don’t agree with their radical leftist agenda.
But the tide may be turning for those who would deliberately disrupt such events. At Ambassador Michael Oren’s speech at the University of California, Irvine in February, 2010, 10 Muslim students were arrested and last week they were convicted by a jury of conspiring to disrupt the speech. They were sentenced to community service and three years of probation by Orange County Superior Court Judge Peter J. Wilson.
Good for the jury, and good for Judge Wilson.
The First Amendment protects free speech and protest, but it doesn’t protect it everywhere and at any time. Like all rights, the government may impose reasonable time, place and manner restrictions on free speech so long as the regulations are intended to keep the peace and are not used to discriminate based on the content of the protest.
If the Muslim students had marched outside the lecture hall with signs and even bullhorns, they would likely have not gotten arrested. But disrupting a lawful assembly of persons who came, and often have paid to hear a speaker, is an abuse of the right of free speech, and an infringement of the rights of the speakers and those who have come to hear them.
The hecklers in this case tried to argue that they had a right to stand and shout out prepared statements like “propagating murder is not an expression of free speech” and cheer so loudly for such statements that the Ambassador could not continue for long periods. They tried to defend their actions by producing pie charts showing how much time they spent disrupting the event versus how long the Ambassador spoke.
But however passionate people are about having their side of the debate heard, while the First Amendment protects their right to express themselves, it does not necessarily guarantee them “equal time” in a venue that someone else has paid for and reserved for the purpose of expressing their message.
The Muslim students would have been welcome to reserve the same hall, at another time, to present their views, and it would have been just as unlawful for Israeli protesters to disrupt their presentation.
Free speech for all requires a degree of civility and respect for the opinions of others, and tolerance for diversity of opinion, not, as the Neo-Marxists, religious radicals and Progressives would prefer, a platform reserved only for radical left-wing or religious propaganda and indoctrination that silences all other opinions.
Those who value our traditions of free speech and protest, in appropriate venues and at appropriate times, should thank this judge and jury for defending everyone’s right to express themselves in a peaceable and lawful manner.
© 2011 Altnews