As a kid from small town Oregon, I generally want as little to do with the City of Portland as possible. For a while I think many viewed Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler as a Democrat who might be a little more business friendly and a little more competent than many in the Democratic Party. In my opinion Portland appears to be essentially ungovernable, but I had hopes that Ted Wheeler would be able to provide better leadership than the city has seen in the past. When protests outside his home late at night forced Mayor Wheeler to stay in a hotel, and when he had the air let out of his tires, I felt sympathy for the guy. Trying to steer the ship that is the City of Portland at this volatile time in our country is no easy task. Unfortunately the Mayor’s current actions have quickly drained any goodwill that he may have had built up with me.
In the wake of the horrific killings on the Portland MAX train, tensions in the city are undoubtedly high. With a Pro-Trump, Free Speech Rally planned on Sunday, I do not fault the Mayor for meeting with the organizers to discuss moving the event to a later date for safety purposes, but when Mayor Wheeler stepped in to ask the Federal Government for revoke the permit for the event he went too far.
Popular speech does not need protection. The entire purpose of the 1st Amendment is to be able to say controversial and provocative things without being targeted by the government for it. Now should anyone begin to directly incite violence or if violent actions break out, then there is a role for government to keep the community safe, but until that time preempting individual’s rights to free speech and expression is wrong.
As long as violence is avoided and property is protected, groups both right-wing and left-wing should be free to march and rally. We seem to be slipping into a state of mind that says “Free Speech for Me and not for Thee”. The 1st Amendment isn’t simply about saying whatever you want to say, it is also about hearing things you don’t want to hear. Temporarily sacrificing rights in the interest of safety is how you end up losing your rights all together. I am by no means a member of the Alt-Right, but Americans under the Constitution have rights. We can openly criticize protests and marchers as individuals, but when government gets involved in picking and choosing who has access to the public square, we find ourselves in a very scary situation.
I fear an overreaching government that limits speech far more than I fear anyone in the Alt-Right or in Antifa. Shame on you Ted Wheeler for attempting to move us in that direction.
Jacob Vandever is political activist, lifelong Oregonian, and proud Oregon State graduate. Jacob is the Editor of the Oregon Upstart Blog.