Ferguson Files: Freedom of Speech is for Everyone

When Ferguson first exploded onto the scene, it was, at that time, based in anger and fear on both sides of the “argument”.  Anger at and fear of the police as well as anger at and fear of the people.  Not known as a compatible mix, so the corrosives were catalysed by one, and not the only one, death by police in the area.  Further actions, by the authorities to shut down the protected speech of those who were protesting framed the “argument” a bit differently, or should have, in my opinion.  The “argument” then became about protected speech and when it was “allowed” to be expressed.  Of course the ongoing examples, both here and across the country, simply made it easier to talk about the police and how bad they all were.  Just the way the “bad” examples of unprotected speech/actions made it easier for the authorities to crack down harder, making police be more brutal, leading to more “bad” examples.  Pretty soon, the argument had been framed as “anti-police”, which is the nicest way to put what’s been said on the streets in cities all over the nation.  Using that “ftp argument” led up to a disturbed young man attempting to murder his girlfriend and succeeding in murdering two NYPD officers.  And, well we all have seen how that’s worked out so well for the civil authority who’s nominally supposed to be in charge of the NYPD.

Later today, there will be a “We Support the Ferguson PD and Community Rally” at the Ferguson PD.  This “rally” is led by a  woman from Illinois, who comes from a town that is no where near St. Louis and is 97.8% White/Caucasian.  In other words, there are 2 Black people in her town.  Her rally is evidently going to be catered by St. Louis Bread Co. and the Fire fighters of Ferguson.

Imagine walking into a place you’ve not likely been to more than a handful of times with, and this is the truth, the actual Community that lives there and deals with this on a daily basis, does NOT want you there.  How do you expect the community to react?  And why would you do something like this more than a month after the last big protests in the area?  Where were you when the community actually needed you?  Where was the free sandwiches and coffee then?  The police and such are well paid, got tons of overtime and I doubt many of them are hurting for a meal, which is more than I can say about Ferguson where jobs, transportation, and other resources are not easily accessed.

But, freedom of speech applies to us all, or it applies to none of us.  That’s the way it works.  I may not like you coming up and saying ________, but I don’t have a right to stop you from saying it.  I may even vehemently disagree with your position, but you have a right to voice it even if it’s right on the side walk in front of my house.

My hope is that the people of Ferguson who’ve been out on the line for months will give the newbies a bit of slack.  Perhaps make sure they are informed that they may not be in the street when they are “rallying”.  That they must not jaywalk, stop traffic, spit on the side walk, litter, park illegally, be careful of  their manner of walking, wear masks or scarves over their faces (despite the temperatures), get to close to police or other first responders, or do anything else that the police suddenly decide interferes with police doing their duties.  Good luck on that last one.

If nothing else, I would hope that the Ferguson community could make an effort to actually get to know these folks who think the Ferguson PD needs a “rally” to let them know that predominately white towns in Illinois approve of what they’re doing in Ferguson.  It’s not like it’s news to us on the line and I’m sure it’s not news to Ferguson PD either.

I do ask, that the REAL Ferguson community, if any turn out at all, would be of a mind to protect the right of free speech for these strangers.  When we fight for a right, it’s for everyone, not just for some.  And since we’ve been fighting for justice and free speech, we need to make sure we fight for their right to justice and free speech.  It’s one of those things that make a “real democracy” a messy proposition.

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