Among the many troubling issues found under the rug in the chaos in Ferguson, MO is the government's abuse of "free speech zones" to facilitate the oppression of peaceful protesters seeking to exercise their Constitutional rights.
I believe we, as a country, ought to step back from our comfortable lives and ask ourselves if we want to live in a place where we have "rights" that we can only exercise in a time and/or place specified by the government with no guarantee that we will have access to the specified time and place.
Would we find it acceptable if the government said, "Yes, you may practice your religion, but only in one of the 50 states that has a government sanctioned religious center for your particular denomination?"
Would we find it acceptable if the government said, "You can have sex with whomever you want, we don't want to interfere with that... but you can only legally do so in these specific hotels far away from main street? Oh, and don't mind the cameras, they're there for your protection."
For the Republicans in the audience, what would you say if I Congress decided, "Sure, you have the right to bear arms... but only at shooting ranges?"
If the answer to any of the above questions is, "No," then why is it acceptable to limit free speech to zones?
I have a counter proposal:
Many people who read this will say, "Scott, this is hardly the most pressing issue we're facing. What with the blatant racism, the militarization of the police, the clearly unfair and biased response to peaceful gatherings, and a whole host of other issues, shouldn't the Free Speech Zone argument take a back seat this time?"
Absolutely not. Without the right to exercise one's free speech, we do not live in a free society. And if we aren't in a free society, what good does protesting do? The only way to get your point across in a non-free society is at the point of a sword. I, for one, do not wish to live in a dystopia.
In fact, I'm not even comfortable with limiting the scope to just one country.
Free speech, freedom of the press, and other associated liberties should be unilateral, without limit, and defended fiercely. I believe if there should be any sort of Free Speech Zone at all, it ought to look like this:
The ACLU has tried, repeatedly but unsuccessfully, to abolish these affronts to the ideals of the United States of America. It's high time they took another swing.