Monday, November 28, 2011

Space Is Not Speech

Liberals everywhere are denouncing the eviction of Occupy Wall Street from public spaces as “an infringement of free speech.” I am not going to argue the methods being used to accomplish those evictions, they may very well be unjustified and some of them certainly appear to be, but the fact of those evictions is a somewhat different matter.

What is government supposed to do when one group’s free speech prevents another group’s right to that same freedom? Occupy Wall Street has claimed title, for instance, to a public square in San Diego that is routinely used by non-profit organizations for various purposes, mostly to raise money for their charitable causes. They have been unable to do so several times in the past month, despite obtaining the proper permits from the city, because Occupy Wall Street has refused to leave the square.

So the government cannot deny free speech to Occupy Wall Street, but Occupy Wall Street can deny free speech to anyone else who wishes to use that public space?

It is my belief that one is entitled to one's rights only to the extent that the exercise of those rights does not interfere with the ability of other citizens to exercise their rights in equal manner. The role of government and of law enforcement is to assure that all citizens are able to avail themselves of their right to free speech, not just those who make the most noise, nor just those who have any particular message.

Occupy Wall Street is entitled to say whatever they want to say, but the ability to occupy any particular piece of public property is not part of “free speech” and no person or group has the right to monopolize public space.

No comments:

Post a Comment