The American Civil Liberties Union says it is no longer willing to defend 1st Amendment rights of protesters who are armed.
The policy change comes after the ACLU came under fire from the left for defending alleged white supremacist protesters, some of whom arrived armed, in Charlottesville, Va., last week.
City officials had originally denied the “alt-right” activist Jason Kessler’s permit to hold his “Unite the Right” march in Emancipation Park.
ACLU sued on his behalf.
“The ACLU of Virginia stands for the right to free expression for all, not just those whose opinions are in the mainstream or with whom the government agrees,” said ACLU-VA Executive Director Claire Guthrie Gastañaga. “The city’s action is unconstitutional in that it denies Mr. Kessler and his supporters the ability to fully express their views in the location most closely associated with their message while leaving in place permits granted other organizations with opposing views.”
After a mentally deranged man rammed into a crowd of counter-protesters following the demonstration, ACLU came under attack from the left.
Virginia Gov. Terry McAulliffe even suggested that ACLU was somehow to blame for the tragedy.
“The City of Charlottesville asked for that to be moved out of downtown Charlottesville to a park about a mile and a half away to a park with a lot of open fields. That was the place where it should have been,” McAuliffe said. “We were unfortunately sued by the ACLU. The judge ruled against us. That rally should not have been in the middle of downtown.”
On its opinion pages, The New York Times suggested that the ALCU needs to “re-think free speech.”
And Slate magazine declared, “The guns won”:
As it turned out, the nightmare that unfolded on Saturday in this small college town involved a great deal more than an ideological clash and demanded far more police protection than was available. Dozens of white nationalists showed up toting semi-automatic weapons, as did some counter-protesters, making it all but impossible for police to intervene when violence erupted. In short order, peaceful protesters were forced to hide as armed rioters attacked one another with clubs, smoke bombs, and pepper spray.
Complaints abound that law enforcement officers looked on from the sidelines as the brutality quickly escalated into a crisis. The tragedy culminated in the death of 32-year-old Heather Heyer when a white supremacist rammed his car into a group of peaceful protesters.
ACLU took the bait and declared that it no longer views an armed protest as a polite protest.
“We review each request for help on a case-by-case basis, but take the clear position that the 1st Amendment does not protect people who incite or engage in violence,” said the statement from its directors.
“If white supremacists march into our towns armed to the teeth and with the intent to harm people, they are not engaging in activity protected by the United States Constitution,” the statement continued. “The 1st Amendment should never be used as a shield or sword to justify violence.”
Bottom line is that ACLU is no longer willing to protect the 1st Amendment rights of groups that would allow guns to be part of demonstrations… because of violence in Charlottesville.
Of course, there wasn’t a shot fired in Charlottsville. A mentally deranged man rammed people with a car.
Will ACLU continue to defend the free speech rights of protesters who arrive in cars?