The First Amendment's guarantee of free speech is something that's been under increasingly successful attack for the past several years, but only as it relates to conservative speech. The left has not only enjoyed increased legal protection, but governments have endorsed and given real-world protection for liberal speech by simply looking the other way as they commit acts of mass violence and crime by calling leftist riots "peaceful protests" and characterizing any attempt to restore public order as fascists trampling the constitutional rights of the rioters. Major media play along with the charade by repeating the Orwellian transformation of the meaning of words into their exact opposites. A typical example was MSNBC's Ali Veshi on live TV with rioters and burning buildings all around him claiming the peaceful protest "was not generally speaking unruly."
Last weekend, Trump supporters held a march in support of the president in Washington, D.C. There were flags, speeches by elected officials and other notable conservatives. After the shocking attacks by Antifa on attendees at the previous rally – including assaulting and beating women and families, with little or no intervention by police – members of the Proud Boys group came to provide security and physically confront black-clad Antifa militants seeking to attack attendees as they have done at previous Trump rallies across America. As expected, fights broke out, and Antifa members stabbed several Proud Boys. A Black Lives Matter poster or banner was allegedly removed from church property in the midst of the chaotic violence and burned in the street. The D.C. police are reportedly investigating the burning of the BLM sign as a hate crime.
The outrage and hyperbole over the burning of a BLM sign taken from a church lawn is ironic since Antifa and BLM rioters actually burned the two-century old St. John's Episcopal Church across the street from the White House during anti-Trump riots in May. It is also ironic that BLM, Antifa and their allies blame police for not protecting them after demands all year to defund or abolish police.
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This is the latest example of the bizarre doublespeak foisted on the American public: Speech is violence, and violence is speech.
In back to back decisions in 1989 and 1990, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional laws banning the burning of the American flag. The court ruled the act of burning an American flag is political speech subject to the highest levels of scrutiny, and the government may not prohibit such speech. It was a big win for anti-American protesters, who now burn American flags as a routine part of their protests, riots and demonstrations. In 1992 the Supreme Court ruled so-called "hate speech" laws unconstitutional, but the following year unanimously endorsed "hate crime" laws that increased punishment for crimes alleged to be motivated by a defendant's thoughts, opinions or bias against certain groups. This opening has been exploited by the left to use government to punish their political opponents while protecting their own supporters.
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Several criminal cases have been filed in the past few years for people burning "gay pride" flags, alleging the act was meant to intimidate, threaten or harass a protected group. While the underlying action of destroying a flag belonging to someone else is certainly a criminal act, enhancing and elevating the crime based on the motivation for doing so (disapproval of what the flag represents) is clearly punishment of a particular point of view. Compare this with the almost daily destruction of flags, monuments, statues, stores, restaurants and all kinds of property belonging to others by leftist rioters this year, with little or no interference by authorities, and it is apparent to most Americans that one's freedom of speech depends largely on his or her political point-of-view. If Trump-supporting protesters are prosecuted as hate criminals for removing and burning a BLM poster after a year of unrestrained, nationwide destruction by those opposing President Trump, it will confirm to many Americans that constitutional freedoms are only fully available to leftists.
Since the coronavirus lockdowns across the country, there also has been a steady display of double standards in the First Amendment guarantee of freedom to peaceably assemble. While perhaps not endorsed by the Supreme Court, we have seen that in actual practice, Democratic elected officials have decided Black Lives Matter and Antifa protests are OK, while anti-lockdown protests are not. Pro-lockdown protests by those claiming to be medical professionals and mass celebrations of a Los Angeles Lakers basketball win are OK, while worship services in churches and Thanksgiving dinners are not.
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The common denominator from BLM protests in D.C. to "autonomous zones" in Portland to shuttered churches and hate-crime investigations against sign-burning Trump supporters is clear. Whether you have First Amendment rights depends on which political party you support.
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