Thursday, June 21, 2018
Editorials

Free speech vs. decency in Portland

“Our city is in mourning, our community's anger is real, and the timing and subject of these events can only exacerbate an already difficult situation."So said Portland, Oregon, Mayor Ted Wheeler in explaining why - in the aftermath of the deaths of two good Samaritans - controversial rallies planned for this month shouldn't be held. Wheeler's concern for the raw feelings of his community is understandable, but he is completely off-base in trying to block the planned rallies and dangerously wrong in his reading of the U.S. Constitution.

Wheeler unsuccessfully appealed to federal officials to revoke a permit granted to a group to hold a pro-Trump, free-speech rally Sunday at a downtown federal government plaza. His request that a permit not be granted for a June 10 anti-Muslim rally was made moot when organizers opted Wednesday to cancel the rally and encourage participants to attend a similar event in Seattle instead. The mayor characterized the rallies as "alt-right" and said "hate speech is not protected by the First Amendment."

Actually, as was pointed out by legal scholars and free-speech advocates, Wheeler is wrong about how constitutional protections of free speech have been interpreted by the courts. Speech, no matter how vile or distaseful, is protected in the United States. It can be banned only if it meets the legal threshold of threat or harassment.

It would have been far better for Wheeler to have followed the advice of the Oregon ACLU and reached out to rally organizers to explain why it might be in the community's best interest to postpone the events. Not only are public passions still aroused about the deaths of two men who tried to protect two young women from anti-Muslim insults, but Portland has become the scene of rising tensions and clashes between extremists from both ends of the political spectrum.

Perhaps it is naive to think that organizers of Sunday's rally might have actually listened to the mayor and allowed Portland to mourn the loss of those two fine men without further upset. Sadly, though, decency these days seems to be in short supply in America's political debate. The most recent example was the stunt by comedian Kathy Griffin, who evidently thought it was humorous to portray the beheading of an American president. It was somewhat comforting that Griffin was widely condemned (including by some of the most ardent critics of President Donald Trump) and that she responded with an abject apology. If only the provocateurs in Portland could be so moved.

Comments
Editorial: Congress should ban splitting kids, parents

Editorial: Congress should ban splitting kids, parents

The shocking scenes of immigrant children crying after being taken from their parents at the border exposed a new level of cruelty by the Trump administration, and though the president reversed course Wednesday, Congress needs to end the shameful pra...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Editorial: A court victory for protecting Florida’s environment

Editorial: A court victory for protecting Florida’s environment

A Tallahassee judge has affirmed the overwhelming intent of Florida voters by ruling that state lawmakers have failed to comply with a constitutional amendment that is supposed to provide a specific pot of money to buy and preserve endangered lands. ...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/20/18
Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Innocent children should not be used as political pawns. That is exactly what the Trump administration is doing by cruelly prying young children away from their parents as these desperate families cross the Mexican border in search of a safer, better...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/19/18

Editorial: ATF should get tougher on gun dealers who violate the law

Gun dealers who break the law by turning a blind eye to federal licensing rules are as dangerous to society as people who have no right to a possess a firearm in the first place. Yet a recent report shows that the federal agency responsible for polic...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/18/18
Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

The new grass-roots effort to put a transportation package before Hillsborough County voters in November faces a tough slog. Voters rejected a similar effort in 2010, and another in 2016 by elected officials never made it from the gate. But the lates...
Published: 06/15/18
Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Forty years ago today, Nelson Poynter died. He was the last individual to own this newspaper, and to keep the Times connected to this community, he did something remarkable. He gave it away.In his last years, Mr. Poynter recognized that sooner or lat...
Published: 06/15/18

There was no FBI anti-Trump conspiracy

The Justice Department released Thursday the highly anticipated report on the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe and other sensitive issues in the 2016 election. It is not the report President Donald Trump wanted. But there is enough i...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Voter purge may be legal, but it’s also suppression

The Supreme Court’s ruling last Monday to allow Ohio’s purging of its voter rolls is difficult to dispute legally. While federal law prohibits removing citizens from voter rolls simply because they haven’t voted, Ohio’s purge is slightly different. T...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Editorial: Free rides will serve as a test of whether the streetcar is serious transportation

Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to ride for free?This fall, the TECO Streetcar Line eliminates its $2.50-a-ride-fare, providing the best opportunity yet to see whether the system’s vintage streetcar replicas can serve as a legitimate transportation a...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

AT&T and the case for digital innovation

A good way to guarantee you’ll be wrong about something is to predict the future of technology. As in, "One day, we’ll all …" Experts can hazard guesses about artificial intelligence, driverless cars or the death of cable television, but technologica...
Published: 06/14/18