The limits of free speech for white supremacists marching at Unite the Right 2, explained


A counterprotester tries to punch Unite the Right organizer Jason Kessler during a press conference in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017.

The First Amendment doesn’t protect targeted racial slurs that could spark violence.

You may have heard that white supremacists are marching through the nation’s capital this weekend. Their rally, Unite the Right 2, is sort of a sequel to the violent neo-Nazi march they held a year ago in Charlottesville, Virginia, that ended with the death of a counterprotester and multiple people sent to the hospital.

Sunday’s festivities, organized by Jason Kessler, will culminate outside the White House in a rally for “white civil rights.” Despite the public backlash to last year’s event, white nationalists still feel emboldened by Donald Trump’s administration to take their racist views from the dark corners of the internet into the mainstream. And any time they face criticism or opposition, members of the alt-right assert their free-speech rights.

Even the mayor of the District of Columbia, who is overseeing the police and emergency response for the rally, merely referred to the event in an official memo as a series of “First Amendment activities.”

There is no question that all Americans, including white supremacists, have a constitutional right to publicly express racist, offensive, unpopular views under the First Amendment. That right has been repeatedly upheld by the US Supreme Court. But what’s often left out of the current defense of racist speech is that the First Amendment does not protect people from saying just any vile, racist thing that comes to mind.

The First Amendment would not, for example, protect any rally-goers this weekend who hurl threatening, racial slurs to specific people during their march, as many of them did in Charlottesville. These could be considered “fighting words,” a category of speech that the Supreme Court has said has no value to American democracy. In 1942, the Court defined fighting words as “those which by their …read more

Source:: Vox – All

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