The recent problems in Charlottesville and Berkeley got us thinking about how we can have protests and counter protests with each having their say without the shadow of violence being cast over all. Remember, we have a constitutional right to freedom of assembly. Maybe some simple commonsense rules could allow both sides to actually get their message out without interruption. Let’s say Group A applies for a Rally Permit for a public location such as a park. Opposition Group B upon finding out about A’s permitted rally also apply for a rally permit. (If one group needs a permit then both do as equal treatment is a must.) How should the Governing entity proceed?
- Which Group has preference? Group A had the permit first and is entitled to a hold their rally in peace at the permitted location. Group B must go elsewhere.
- Where? A different location a safe distance away.
- How would the distance be determined? The very minimum distance allowed would be simply if Group A can hear can hear anything from Group B, B is too close. If Group B can drown out what Group A has to say then they have a veto over A’s free speech. Think of the Verizon guy asking “can you hear me now.” If A can hear B, the latter is too close.
- Is their any circumstance where a member of group B could attend Group A’s rally? If Group A allows for a Q & A session some of Group B with legitimate questions should be allowed but only if Group B reciprocates at their rally. Even then the questions should be respectful but the questioner should be allowed a followup just as in press conferences. Free speech should foster a dialogue between opposing points of view and this would encourage it. If B’s rally has no Q &A, none of their members would be allowed to attend A’s rally and visa versa.
- What else? You can’t have a Rally if people aren’t allowed arrive and leave safely. Safe corridors to the rally location are essential. They should be made clear to all and enforced.
- Can we divorce ourselves from using our own likes and dislikes in decision-making and planning? Think of group A as fervent dogs lovers and Group B as equally fervent cat lovers. That might help in arriving at balance.