#BlackLivesMatter Disruptions Are Not Protected Free Speech

In America we have something called the 1st amendment which protects, among other things, our right to communicate freely and assemble peacefully. We are very protective of those rights seeing them, rightfully, as the cornerstone to a liberal and generally peaceful society.

But what the 1st amendment doesn’t protect is nonsense like this:

Minnesota State Fair officials and St. Paul police are bracing for a Black Lives Matter protest that could disrupt the fair’s opening weekend.

The St. Paul-based group is planning a rally and march to protest St. Paul police shootings and alleged racial disparities at the fair. As of Friday evening, 285 people had accepted the group’s Facebook invitation to meet at Hamline Park at 11 a.m. Saturday, Aug., 29, for a march down busy Snelling Avenue toward the fairgrounds, disrupting traffic along the way.

“The Minnesota State Fair profits millions of dollars every year, and every year continues to deny black and other minority business owners the opportunity of being a vendor at the fair,” the group said in a released statement Thursday.

I can’t speak to the veracity of the accusations of discrimination made against the Minnesota State Fair, though I’d be surprised if they were true, but that’s really decide the point. The larger issue here is that this protest movement seems to think that they have more rights than other people.

Keep in mind that the St. Paul chapter of #BlackLivesMatter also blocked the 35W freeway in Minneapolis last year and disrupted commerce at the Mall of America on one of the busiest shopping days of the year.

Officials have been largely reticent to hold this movement responsible for these disruptions, and that’s a shame because these actions are not protected speech or assemblage.

For one thing, there’s nothing peaceful about the protests which are often violent and disruptive. And even if they were peaceful, one group’s assembly for a political protest cannot trump the rights of others to assemble for, say, lawful commerce.

This has long been recognized in how protests around another hot political topic have been handled. For decades pro-life protesters have gathered around abortion clinics to have their say, but what those protesters are not allowed to do is block or hinder access to the abortion clinics. Because their 1st amendment right to protest abortion does not trump the right of abortion clinics and their customers to engage in lawful commerce.

It’s not a question of whether or not we agree with these protest movements (I’m pro-life, but have little in common politically with the #BlackLivesMatter folks). This is a question of how we balance the right of one group to make themselves heard while not harming or blocking the lawful activities of others.

The key word there is “balance.”

The tactics by the #BlackLivesMatter protesters are shameful, though also instructive in that it tells us these protesters seem to think they have more rights than the rest of us.

Agree with them or not, they don’t have the right to harm businesses or hinder citizens going about their lives. When they do they should be arrested and prosecuted.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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