Like it or not, hate is free speech

To the editor,

In your 8/17 issue, a letter that was apparently copied to several newspapers appeared by Sally Florence, titled “Hate Speech is not Free Speech.”

The author suggested the police were out-gunned by the right-wingers in Charlottesville. She also mentioned the two state police officers who died in a helicopter crash, presumably in an attempt to assign responsibility for their deaths to the rally participants.

All of her major statements are outright misinformation.

I have no love for the left or the right. Both have utterly atrocious, fetid desires to control others using the force of government. I also have no tolerance for parroted party-line lying on either side.

First, either everyone has a right to free speech and free assembly, or NO ONE does.

Second, given the level of arms and equipment (including military equipment and vehicles) the police had at the ready, the suggestion that the police were “outgunned” is simply ludicrous. The cops certainly were not worried.

Third, the police helicopter crash was apparently due to some bureaucrat allowing an unqualified company to perform repairs after the same helicopter was involved in a 2010 crash. In addition, while the crash has been laid at the feet of the rally participants, in reality, the helicopter had finished flying over downtown at around 4:42 p.m. and was en route to provide air support for the motorcade of Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) when it crashed due to some as-yet unknown mechanical failure.

If anything, the crash should be laid at the feet of the governor and his unnecessary motorcade ride.

As to the rally itself and its implications for free speech: The First Amendment does not say your right to speak is removed if you invoke the Second Amendment by carrying a weapon on your person. Nor does the Second Amendment say your right to carry a weapon is removed if you invoke the First Amendment by speaking your mind.
While the right-wingers were armed, I have not heard of a single one of them drawing, much less firing, a weapon. On the other hand, they were pepper sprayed; pelted 

with rocks and bottles; had balloons filled with urine, feces, paint and other vileness thrown at them; and at one point someone pointed a flamethrower at one of them and fired it. Several were stalked to their cars, and there were multiple incidents of them being blocked from leaving. One group was attacked by several individuals in a parking garage, one of whom struck at least two protesters on the head with a mag-lite flashlight (which are often used as weapons by police), before he was subdued and disarmed.

The right-wingers should simply have been ignored. Had their permitted time come and they were there rallying all by themselves, they would have had their little soiree and gone home. As it happens, they could not have asked for better advertising for their abhorrent ideology, all supplied by their opposition. What happened in Charlottesville will now be used as a rallying cry to violence on both sides.

In the future, the denial of their right to speak will be used to justify “ambush rallies” where they don’t bother asking for a permit and just show up. Expect even more mayhem as a result. These people have learned their lesson: even if they follow the rules for holding rallies, they will not be allowed to.

Ultimately, the blame for the fiasco belongs to the city government and its police. With 1,000 police, there was plenty of police presence to keep the groups separate so they could each speak their minds unmolested.

As was the case in every other riot situation, the police utterly failed to keep the peace.

But then, that was exactly what city leadership, as well as the right-wingers and the always-outraged left, wanted.

– Marc Montoni, Clifton