A Freedom of Speech?

GUEST COMMENTARY-Freedom of speech is my writing this article. 

Freedom of speech is CityWatch posting it online and emailing to those who have signed up to receive it. 

Freedom of speech is not freedom to vandalize. 

What we witnessed yesterday was more than tragic. If we don’t take action it will become one small step on the path to the death of democracy. 

In a democratic society we have to recognize the rights of all people not just the selfish and the spoiled. 

The people who broke into the Capitol on Wednesday need to be treated as what they are: vandals and spoiled children denied a treat they have not earned. They are not martyrs; they deserve to be ignored and ostracized. 

They are the ultimate product of the me generation, the worst elements of which have been using social media to amplify disrespect and escalate online bullying over the past four years, a mob mentality egged on by the ego-in-chief. 

Aggressive dissing has gone from street gangs to the White House in less than a generation. 

What was on display yesterday was more than just bad behavior, it was the result of the continued trampling on the fabric of our society by a selfish egotistical wannabe despot. 

It was a direct dereliction of duty by the President of the United States, the man holding the most respected elected office in the free world. Upon taking the oath of office, every American president swears to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States. 

The basis of equality guaranteed under the Constitution is that no one should be above the law. And that especially applies to the enabler-in-chief whose action yesterday generated the first invasion of Congress since the burning of Washington by British troops in 1814, and whose inaction over the past nine months has contributed directly to the deaths of 370,000 Americans and growing. 

Last July, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the president might occupy the highest office in the land, but he is not above the law in trying to claim executive privilege over his private business affairs. In response, the orange hamster tweeted that other presidents in similar situations have received judicial deference, “BUT NOT ME” – which is not only self-pitying, but wrong.
Trump’s conduct yesterday was as a private individual and unrelated to his performance of presidential duties. 

Destruction for the purpose of destruction is not acceptable in civilized society; what was on display was the intersection of spoiled brats and guns. 

Forget the 25th Amendment, the best way to show the error of these criminals’ ways is to put the instigator in jail as the common criminal he is. And then prosecute those who jumped on his bandwagon on similar charges, as the criminals they are, not the martyrs they will claim to be. 

While the right to peacefully protest is protected by the First Amendment as free speech, this right to protest does not permit violence or the incitement to violence. Incitement to riot under federal law is when a person encourages others to commit a breach of the peace without necessarily acting themselves and can include statements, signs, or conduct intended to lead others to riot, punishable by fines, imprisonment for up to five years, or both. 

Federal jurisdiction in rioting cases arises when the rioter engaged in the prohibited act and traveled between states or countries to do so, or used interstate or foreign commerce such as mail, telephone, radio, or television to communicate or broadcast prior to their overt acts. 

Here in Los Angeles where Trump supporters and counter-protesters clashed outside LAPD headquarters, state laws apply to anyone present for the commission of a criminal act. So protesters can assemble and express their concerns verbally, but if they cross the line to violence and vandalism these actions are criminal. 

Given the potential fatality of COVID-19, breaking social distancing, not wearing a suitable mask, or acting in a manner to potentially spread the virus should be treated as acts of violence. And since they clearly have no personal concerns about infection or bringing it home to their families, perhaps prison is the proper place to put them. 

Freedom of speech is a privilege, a right we enjoy in these United States. It is not a license to kill.


(Liz Amsden is an activist from Northeast Los Angeles with opinions on much of what goes on in our lives. She also writes on behalf of the Budget Advocates’ mission regarding the City’s budget and services. In her real life she works on budgets, for film and television, where fiction can rarely be as strange as the truth of living in today’s world.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.