by Alberta Parish
The establishment of the U.S. constitutional’s guarantee of free speech is the pillar upon which a free society continues to operate absent tyranny and oppression from those in power. For this very reason, the First Amendment is not something that we should ever take for granted because without the right to freely express one’s ideas, we would not be able to hold free elections, peaceably assemble, protest human rights violations, and disseminate information to the public.The U.S. Constitution’s original purpose for freedom of speech, freedom of the press and peaceable assembly was to initiate a policy in which citizens could have a voice to speak against, protest, and denounce any system that exercised tyranny and threatened the people’s liberties. Today, the First Amendment is under attack as political protesting has been deemed a federal offense and punishable by up to ten years in prison, according to a new law passed in 2012 by Congress as H.R. 347. The Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act dubbed as the ‘Anti-Occupy’ bill prohibits protesters from peaceful assembly and demonstrating around or near “specific geographic zones that have been designated by the Secret Service…” In H.R. 347, those zones have been outlined as the White House, the Vice President’s residence, any place where an individual is under Secret Service protection, or any sporting or other public event listed as a National Special Security Event, which includes the Democratic and Republican national conventions (3).
Even as the Bill of Rights was created in 1789, institutionalized slavery was legal in the United States. Although my ancestors, many of whom were slaves in the 18th and 19th Century, did not benefit from the Bill of Rights, which is the first ten amendments, this document now protects the descendants of African and Native American slaves living today. Freedom of speech, of the press, of religious worship, of peaceable assembly, and petitioning the Government to address grievances is the only vanguard standing between a free society and dictatorship. In the event that government and corporations are allowed to restrict free speech and any forms of protest on the Internet, what will be their next step? Perhaps, restriction of free speech in television, film, newspapers, emails and phone conversations? One has to wonder why Sony employees’ emails and personal records were recently hacked and the North Korean Government blamed for those cyber-attacks, which exposed confidential information about Sony employees, including movie stars. Unlike Hollywood, members of the American press have long censored themselves while maintaining the appearance of having freedom of speech and freedom of the press. So why would those who control the Internet not begin censoring the flow of online content in the near future? If the fear of cyber-attacks from outside countries can be sold to the American public, then what is to stop federal agencies from censoring and even criminalizing our private emails if the content can be defined as ‘willful’ hate speech?
Recently, there has been a sort of media frenzy surrounding stories of white policemen killing unarmed black men. Have you ever wondered why mainstream media consistently propagate stories of white cops killing unarmed black men, and how it all becomes a narrative about racism instead of being about the real issues behind the police shootings, which includes the militarization of local police departments? Because they know how deep racism is embedded within the American culture, they can easily manipulate people’s emotions by fanning the flames of white racism while never talking about the core problems existing throughout inner cities where neglectful parents, underachieving educational systems, widespread poverty and unemployment are the symptoms producing high crime rates and higher prison populations. These same networks will not broadcast stories of mass shootings in Chicago by young black men over any given weekend, but they will replay news of a white cop killing an unarmed black man in the streets of Chicago and elsewhere during prime time hours when they know most people are sitting in front of their television sets. Why are stories of cops killing young black men among the top stories in prime time lineups? Is it only for T.V. ratings or is there a much bigger plan behind it all?
As in many high profile cases involving police shootings of unarmed black men, race agitators can always be spotted among peaceful demonstrators and even among provocateurs spinning the narrative of racist white cops when the many issues that plague the African American community is beyond racist cops. The city of Ferguson, like many other cities around the country, has a predominantly white power structure although the city makes up 70% of African Americans. Therefore, the Ferguson Police Department, currently having no African American officers, is unrepresentative of the black citizenry of Ferguson, which is less than one percent of the problem as to why tensions existed between citizens and police prior to Michael Brown’s shooting death. The bigger issues that the race agitators willfully never mention is Missouri’s segregated schools accompanied by “decades of public and private housing discrimination,” wrote Nikole Hannah-Jones of the New York Times. In addition, “public and private housing discrimination made St. Louis one of the most racially segregated metropolitan areas in the country” (8). You wonder why there is tension between black youth and police in Ferguson especially when there is no presence of an African American officer in sight, you can pretty much narrow down the issues of hostility toward Ferguson cops vs. police brutality to the fact that St. Louis is a microcosm of systematic apartheid as it exist in the United States today.
The major issues plaguing predominantly African American communities throughout major urban cities is the educational and power structure continuing systemic discriminatory practices culminating in unbalanced graduation rates between poor and middle to upper-middle class students. There is a direct correlation between school districts having poor academic performance records, half of black students who fail to graduate from high school, and the numbers of those non-graduating students who end up either dead or in prison.
From the inner cities to the prison industrial complex, human beings have been turned into lab rats, as part of experimental studies in behavioral and environmental sciences, which is why the ghettos exists with entire families surviving from one generation to the next on welfare and food stamps.
Systemic unjust treatment of black citizens in Ferguson coupled with cases of police brutality existed for a long time prior to Michael Brown’s death, but the race agitators are knowingly avoiding the bigger subject matter, which is the militarization of local police since the 9/11 terror attacks in Manhattan. Part of police training deals with suppressing riots and civil unrest, so when law enforcement officials responded in the manner to which they were trained following the grand jury’s decision to not indict Officer Darren Wilson for the death of Michael Brown, why didn’t people protest the militarization of police departments? Instead, I see countless threatening comments posted online about killing cops. Are people so stupid that they simply do not understand posting threatening online messages is considered a terrorist threat and hate speech, and is punishable by up to ten years or more in a federal prison? As defined by law, hate speech is offensive and threatening rhetoric directed at groups and individuals based upon color, national origin, religion, disability, age, gender and sexual orientation. However, hate speech can easily be expanded to include threatening and insulting language against political officials and agents of law enforcement. Likewise, threats to cause bodily harm have also been expanded to include an act of terrorism. Since hate speech is considered to not be protected under the law for free speech, any persons who claim to be a political dissident advocating even the discontinuance of the two-party system in the United States known as the Democratic and Republican Parties can possibly be classified by the federal government as a potential terrorist, according to current laws existing in the Patriot Act and Homeland Security Act. In the name of national security, the NSA and other counterintelligence agencies monitor your online content like they track your credit card transactions. You may believe that your hate speech is protected under the First Amendment, but making a terrorist threat against someone’s life is not the kind of message that any person who truly believe in human rights should ever espouse.
If one truly claims to be a champion of human rights, then you must know that killing police officers in an act of retaliation is as equally unjust and immoral as officers killing unarmed black men like Eric Garner who was not resisting cops, even as he was placed in a chokehold and his head pressed forcefully upon the pavement by Officer Daniel Pantaleo. Although Garner did not deserve to lose his life after being approached by officers for selling loose cigarettes, killing cops and threatening to kill cops will not solve anything. Instead, New Yorkers would do better to challenge the heavy cigarette tax and the law, which criminalizes people for selling loose cigarettes. Unfortunately, two NYPD officers have lost their lives this weekend after being gunned down by a man whom law enforcement officials claims had posted online content vowing to kill cops in retribution for the death of Eric Garner and Michael Brown. According to the New York Times, “The officers, Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, were in the car near Myrtle and Tompkins Avenues in Bedford-Stuyvesant in the shadow of a tall housing project when the gunman, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, walked up to the passenger-side window and assumed a firing stance, Police Commissioner William J. Bratton said” (2).
As previously stated, hate speech is not protected under the law for free speech. Therefore, any threatening or offensive online posts against individuals, businesses or groups are unlawful and can never be condoned by anyone who promotes human rights for all peoples.
Any black person that speaks of liberation need to be mindful that your foreparents vowed human rights for all people—black, brown, yellow, red and white because they understood that other peoples around the world were also being oppressed by a system of apartheid, racism, police brutality and totalitarianism under the yoke of elitist rulers. Hatemongers, race baiters, provocateurs and agents of civil unrest make up only a small majority of the overall population of peace-loving and human rights activists dedicated to creating positive change in a world filled with violence and unrest. As agents of peace, we cannot afford to allow those who care nothing of our First Amendment rights to restrict free speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion (and even our right to be nonreligious) to have a bigger voice than the voice of freedom. Without the freedom to choose your beliefs, extrapolate ideas, demonstrate against unfair laws, print information and disseminate core values, we end up like Nazi Germany where millions of Europeans, homosexuals, and Jews were stripped of human rights, experimented upon and ultimately exterminated.Works CitedHannah-Jones, Nikole. “How School Segregation Divides Ferguson – and the United States.”
The New York Times. The New York Times Company. 19 Dec. 2014. Web.
“Two N.Y.P.D. Officers Are Killed in Brooklyn Ambush; Suspect Commits Suicide.” The New York Times. The New York Times Company. 20 Dec. 2014. Web.
Rottman, Gabe. “Ready to Occupy? What You Need to Know About H.R. 347, the “Criminalizing Protest” Law.” American Civil Liberties Union. ACLU. 26 Apr. 2012. Web.