Opinion: Charlottesville Wasn’t About Free Speech, It Was About Uniting Terrorists

by Andy Hart // August 25, 2017

We wouldn’t let ISIS have this much of a spotlight and claim they had free speech so why are we allowing right-wing extremist groups to have so much freedom?

A popular conversation among progressive communities recently regarded free speech after the ACLU seemingly sided with white supremacists in upholding their right to rally at a park they had gotten a permit for. On the first night the combined alt-right groups held a torch rally and violently attacked several students who were gathered nearby to protest them. There was no police presence during this time even though the city had been aware of the planned demonstrations. The following day the city revoked the white nationalist’s permit to organize in their city after seeing footage of their streets overran by torch-bearing white nationalists chanting threats like ‘Jews will not replace us’.

One thing to remember before we continue- marching with torches, beating students and threats of violence against Jews, people of color and LGBT are not instances of ‘free’ speech – if I held a torch up to you, began beating you and threw lighter fluid on you or if I drove over you and killed you then I would no longer be speaking, I would be acting out and I would be terrorizing a community.

The lawyers in the ACLU argued that the city had already given them the permit and they legally had the right to organize and speak. Hundreds were already at the park by the time the city tried to revoke the permit (they had sound equipment set up at the park where they had the permit and many had traveled out of state to attend and weren’t easily willing to walk away). In this situation my frustration isn’t with the lawyers at the ACLU but rather the leaders of Charlottesville who were unusually timid, refrained from deloying National Guard after saying they were prepared and delayed police presence even though they had been well-aware of the 48 hours of planned ‘Unite The Right’ activity. The move to cancel the permit led to more angst among alt-right groups and later one white supremacist became so enraged that they drove through a group of peace activists and left Heather Heyer dead and many others injured.

The city failed to respond properly to the hate groups in this instance and by the time they realized who showed up to rally it was too late to deny their permit. When the safety of community members becomes a concern then the conversation isn’t about speech, it’s about preventing hate groups from causing violence and it should be about arresting those committing that violence and making those threats. This country just witnessed peaceful activists who were defending their water get maced and blown to pieces in North Dakota so many of us already know that this issue is deeply systemic and no amount of liberal ‘free speech’ guidelines will solve the hate embedded into our entire system.

After this incident the president of the United States went on to condemn ‘both sides’ for their violence even though Heather Heyer was not involved in any violent acts. Several days later that same president specifically condemned a terrorist driver in Spain who plowed through citizens there and didn’t seem to put blame on the victims of that attack. Years of providing safe spaces for KKK and Nazis, of not holding accountable those who spread racist rhetoric as well as providing legal buffers, of providing physical barriers and financial assistance to hate speakers has created the environment we’re in today.

Consider another point being that people like Milo, Trump and Bannon wouldn’t be where they are today had they not been promoted and heavily funded by the Mercer family (wealthier than Soros) to spread their propaganda in an effort to accumulate dedicated voters after creating division. These acts combined with our racist historical trauma has transformed American culture into a breeding ground for racist & extremist ideology.

The conversation shouldn’t be about how to prevent them from speaking, but rather when do we hold them accountable (especially when the police are defending them) for the havoc they impose upon communities which results in acts of domestic terrorism?

I wrote more about this topic in my article titled “We Can Protect Free Speech & Prosecute Right-Wing Terrorists At The Same Time”.

Post Author: Andy Hart

─ Formerly Libertarian & now a Progressive Leftist; supports ending wars, rebuilding American lives and investing in public services. Activist. Lone Wolf. Not Great At Writing. Artist from California. Follow Me On Facebook
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