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Where are the Defenders of Free Speech?

Yesterday, 30 White Supremacists (The Traditionalist  Worker Party or TWP) and Skinheads, with a permit to hold a rally, were attacked by approximately 300 protesters in Sacramento, California. The protesters used sticks, concrete blocks and knives to chase the White Supremacists, who themselves were armed with knives and sticks. Seven people were reportedly stabbed, two of them critically, although it remains unknown who stabbed whom. Police were present to prevent violence and protect the rallyists rights, but were apparently ineffective in doing so. No one was arrested.

The entire liberal and progressive left (as well as the conservative right) has been silent about this. Media accounts have focused on the background of the TWP group, particularly its leader, the admittedly despicable Matthew Heimbach, with CNN providing a long history, including interviews with him, showing his racist views. Notably, despite the focus of the media upon Heimbach, who became known nationally when he assaulted a Black Lives Matter protester at a Donald Trump rally (initiating a series of condemnations of Trump rallies as condoning violence) he was not present at the rally. With regard to yesterday’s violence, one of the leaders of the protesters was interviewed at length by CNN and other outlets, where she gave her version of the conflict and congratulated her group on “shutting down” the rally, claiming that it was their obligation to not allow “Nazi violence” to have a voice.

The ACLU and other defenders of free speech in the U.S. have spent years standing up for the rights of neo-Nazi and other despised groups’ rights to march and speak their mind in our society. The Supreme Court had ruled in favor of such expressions of free speech, even when they contain hate messages. Modern liberal and progressive groups, who were highly vocal when Trump supporters such as Heimbach used violence against protesters at a Trump rally, now seem to be content to allow violence to impede free speech if the content of the message is something they disagree with. Where are the voices decrying this violence against those who are peaceably demonstrating? Do we live in a society where we throw away rights guaranteed by our constitution if we don’t like the person who is exercising those rights? That’s the kind of America that would stop Black Lives Matter from holding a rally, if the majority was lined up against them, that would allow students to be beaten up for rallying in support of Israel on a college campus, that would allow protesters against coal mining to be attacked by angry coal miners in Appalachia. That’s the kind of America the TWP wants.

Free speech is too precious to be abused and it means standing up for the rights of those you hate and those you disagree with because those rights belong to all Americans, regardless of the worth of their message. If we lose the right to free speech, we lose our identity as a free society. Where are the voices of those who are standing up for free speech today?

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