Saturday, August 23, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Free speech at presidential rallies...still a problem

One thing I blogged about on a fairly regular basis during the Bush years were problems with free speech issues at presidential rallies -- people arrested for wearing a protest T-shirt, for example. So what's changed since Barack Obama became the 44th president? Well, the answer -- in my opinion -- is a metaphor for Obama's entire presidency, which is better than Bush, but not better enough. Protestors are still cordoned off into zones that are too far from the action, often where Obama can't even see them (this is what happened when the president spoke at Arcadia University last month).

Free speech at presidential rallies...still a problem

One thing I blogged about on a fairly regular basis during the Bush years were problems with free speech issues at presidential rallies -- people arrested for wearing a protest T-shirt, for example. So what's changed since Barack Obama became the 44th president? Well, the answer -- in my opinion -- is a metaphor for Obama's entire presidency, which is better than Bush, but not better enough. Protestors are still cordoned off into zones that are too far from the action, often where Obama can't even see them (this is what happened when the president spoke at Arcadia University last month).

And now, something like this doesn't make sense to me:

When the crowd didn't move and began singing "God Bless, America" and the national anthem, Quincy Deputy Police Chief Ron Dreyer called for members of the Mobile Field Force to walk up the street.

 

The officers, mainly from Metro East departments near St. Louis and dressed in full body armor, marched from the east and stood on the south side of York facing the protesters.

There was no physical contact, and the officers did not come close to the crowd, but there were catcalls and more than a few upset tea party members, including a woman who shouted, "This is communism!"

These demonstrators were just out there saying the usual Tea Party blather about Obama -- nothing dangerous or that could be considered anything other than free speech; to send in police in riot gear is a provocative overreaction. Meanwhile, at a presidential event in Arizona last year, police could do nothing about an armed man in the crowd. How hard can it be to a) let non-violent dissenters speak freely and b) prevent firearms within a reasonable distance of the president and the public. It's not as bad as arresting people for wearing a T-shirt, but America can still do a lot better than this. 

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Will Bunch
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