The First Amendment allows the freedom of speech and prohibits any interference of such speech. Therefore, do White nationalists, neo-Nazis and other hate groups have the right to express their views?
Yes, affirms Associate Law Professor Renalia DuBose of Western Michigan University-Cooley Law School in Tampa Bay, Florida. This question is once again being debated following the events in Charlottesville, Virginia two weekends ago.
In an MSR phone interview last week, DuBose said, “We cannot allow the rhetoric of people who hold extremist views to stop the progress in this country.”
A Virginia woman who was among the anti-racism counter-protesters at the White supremacist march in Charlottesville was killed when a car driven by a reported Nazi sympathizer plowed into the crowd of counter-protesters. Nineteen other protesters were injured. The march was organized to protest the planned removal of a confederate statue.
“Do they have the right to protest to promote their view? Yes, because of our First Amendment,” contended DuBose. “If they had a peaceful march [on August 12], I would support their right to march. But it wasn’t a peaceful march. It caused death and destruction.”
DuBose added, “The Confederate army committed treason against the United States of America. We shouldn’t celebrate [treason] as a government. Should our public officials celebrate that? No. Should our public officials say it’s O.K.? No. It was wrong.
“If you want to do that in your private setting, your private property, that’s fine,” because those who display Confederate-related items have a right to do so, as protected under the U.S. Constitution. “If that’s the flag you want on your car, in your home, that’s your right. But treason doesn’t have a place in our government and in our governmental institutions.”
A native of the South, DuBose was a former schoolteacher and administrator before becoming a law professor. She fully supports free speech, even from hate groups, but explained the restrictions.
“If I decided to get up on the interstate, I can preach God’s Word all day long. That is an open forum. But when I step onto a public college — that is not an open forum. What I say may be restricted and limited. If what I am saying on college campus causes mayhem, [officials] have the right to say no I can’t say that.”
As a result, she fully supports the removal of Confederate statutes, flags and other symbols, such as the Confederate statue, which now stands in front of a Tampa, Florida courthouse. She noted that the statue will be removed soon.
“Many people didn’t see [the statue as] being wrong there until one of the county commissioners was able to locate through a historian a speech that was read on the day that Confederate statue was put up. It was horrible,” said DuBose.
“I’m not saying you have to remove history. Children need to know our history, but we as a governmental body cannot…celebrate the degradation of people.
She emphasized caution when choosing what to celebrate in government, public buildings, and public schools. “We need to be careful with that.”
DuBose admitted that although we have made progress in this country, there is work yet to do. “Have we solved all of the problems for all people? No. [But] if I had a choice of places to live today, it would be America. [Extremists] have always been with us, and they will always be with us.
“I hope America doesn’t take its eyes off the progress we have made, and we won’t stop making progress because of a few extremists,” said DuBose.
“I really believe that the vast majority of Americans want the same things for [the country] … [We] can’t allow the extremists to set the dialogue for America.”
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.