Free speech shouldn’t include ‘free’ violence

By Tom Joyce - [email protected]

Tom Joyce

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. sure had it right when he guided the Civil Rights Movement using a strategy of non-violent, passive resistance — armed only with what he called “weapons of love.”

Dr. King was a wise man and knew that any message civil rights marchers or protesters sought to advance would be obscured by negativity in the public’s eyes if those activities became shrouded by wanton acts of violence or destruction.

Instead, the image of peaceful protesters being lifted up from lunch counters by police or doused by fire hoses burned a positive image in America’s consciousness which did much to aid the civil rights cause.

Well, we sure need Dr. King today, for many reasons — including but not limited to helping to school modern-day protesters in the proper etiquette that goes hand in hand with effecting social change.

If he could come back to life, I am certain MLK would be disgusted by what is occurring on our college campuses which is passing as protest — but a sorry example of same.

No question our country was founded on the principles of revolution and civil disobedience to the king of England, and the right of free speech and assembly is one of the cornerstones of our democracy.

Yet there is a good way and a bad way to mount a protest. And a fundamental element seemingly lost on those who’ve been waging violent demonstrations at campuses such as the University of California-Berkeley is that one person’s rights end where another’s begin.

I don’t care what people want to protest or advocate — high taxes, the ouster of leaders we don’t approve of or even ugly neckties worn by sad, old “deplorables.” A line should be drawn when this includes destruction of others’ property and the like.

It was refreshing to learn this week that campus police at Berkeley are working closely with city officers there to identify those who caused more than $100,000 in damage to the university on Feb. 1. That’s not counting a dozen-plus businesses that were vandalized in the city’s downtown area and elsewhere.

Authorities’ efforts include releasing photographs of perpetrators involved in a variety of crimes committed then in the hopes they can be identified by the public and brought to justice.

All of those individuals arrested as a result, either students or paid outside agitators (similar to the paid mourners in the Bible) should face not only stiff jail sentences and fines but be ordered to fork over restitution for damages caused.

I would suspect that having to account for their actions is a strange departure for student-suspects who likely have grown up throwing temper tantrums and tearing up things while risking nothing more serious than a timeout session.

Being presented with a large bill for damages certainly would be a shock to them, or their parents — and if they aren’t able to pay, just tack that sum onto the student loans they took out to finance their degrees in early Lithuanian art.

I guarantee violent campus protests would end once those irresponsible idiots started getting hit in the pocketbook.

In addition to the violence, something else that’s troubling about what is occurring on college campuses these days is anti-tolerance for those with non-liberal viewpoints. In the Berkeley episode, students were protesting the scheduled appearance of far-right writer and speaker Milo Yiannopoulos.

Whatever happened to the notion that institutions of higher learning were supposed to be forums for the free exchanges of ideas, thus enabling those in a university community to draw their own conclusions about issues, etc.?

Today, it seems one is free to express ideas as long as the “right” ones are involved.

I saw a report Friday morning on the C-SPAN television network that a professor at Northern Arizona University had referred to Donald Trump as “rapist in chief” during class, which was recorded by a student. When the student reported this to the school administration, that individual was suspended for a semester while no action was taken against the professor.

In another incident, three students reportedly have been suspended at a Michigan campus for handing out copies of the Constitution.

Speaking of this historic document, I don’t think it says anywhere that only liberal free-speech rights should be protected.

I am reminded of another fine example of the written word, the George Orwell book “Animal Farm,” a satirical work comically condemning the concept that everyone is created equal “but some are more equal than others.”

Tom Joyce is a staff writer for The Mount Airy News. He may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.

Tom Joyce Joyce

By Tom Joyce

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