The American Civil Liberties Union is standing firm in its position that all speech, no matter how “problematic” or “hateful,” deserves the same protection under the First Amendment. It’s a stance that’s earned the civil rights group the ire of leftist progressives who are outraged by the ACLU’s defense of Ann Coulter, whose UC Berkeley speech was canceled.
“The heckler’s veto of Coulter’s Berkeley speech is a loss for the 1st Amendment. We must protect speech on campus, even when hateful,” wrote the ACLU on Twitter. The “heckler’s veto” is, as ACLU director Ben Wizner explains, a legal term of art for when the government says “you can’t have your event because of planned protests.”
The ACLU made its comments in the wake of UC Berkeley’s decision to shut down conservative firebrand Ann Coulter’s speech at the campus. A previous event by Milo Yiannopoulos was met with a large-scale riot that saw up to 200 black-clad “anti-fascists” destroying property and setting fires as marchers made their way downtown from UC Berkeley campus grounds. Campus leftists celebrated the violence in the school newspaper as an expression of social justice.
The civil rights group responded to concerns from angry leftists, some of whom attempted to downplay the violent nature of the Antifa protests.
“Once invited, being disinvited by the government (in this case public university) amounts to unlawful censorship,” wrote the ACLU.
Those who voiced their outrage are apparently unaware of the ACLU’s controversial defense of Neo-Nazis’ right to march in Skokie, IL in 1978. Civil liberties quickly erode if they aren’t equally applied to everyone under the law.
Despite the threats to cancel their ACLU memberships, it’s doubtful that any decline in numbers will have much of an impact on the organization’s 1.6 million members, which is up from 425,000 since Trump’s election. It’s a figure that continues to surge as more Americans become involved in the political process.