I’ve long been skeptical of so-called “hate crimes” legislation, mostly because I don’t feel that the identity of the victim should necessarily impact the seriousness of a crime. An assault is an assault, whether it’s a fist fight at a football game or a racist beating up a Hispanic person.
Even more odious are “hate speech” crimes, which criminalizes behavior that while probably obnoxious to most of us is still just speech. I’ve always felt as though “hate speech” laws could easily creep into the area of just plain old laws against speech that makes a certain group of people angry.
Which is to say, laws that would limit our freedom of speech.
Case in point, a woman in New York who has been charged with a “hate crime” for graffiti critical of the New York Police Department. Now, to be sure, vandalism is not protected speech. I’m not defending this woman’s defacement of other people’s property. But charging her with a “hate crime” is criminalizing the content of her speech, not its clearly illegal medium, and in that we have a 1st amendment issue:
Rosella Best, 36, was arrested on Monday for allegedly tagging police cars, vans, scooters, and a school in Brooklyn with anti-cop sentiments. The messages “Nazis=NYPD” and “NYPD pick on the innocent” were discovered on PS 31 near Lorimer and Meserole Streets. Other spray-painted statements included “NYPD pick on the harmless” and “a wrongful arrest is a crime.” The NYPD says that Best was caught on video surveillance. The “a blond-haired, blue-eyed vandal” is being charged with “aggravated harassment, criminal mischief as a hate crime, which is considered a felony,” according to the Post.
Presumably, if this woman had been spraypainting “Metallica sucks” or something she’d merely be guilty of criminal mischief or vandalism. But because she was being critical of the cops with her graffiti, now it’s a hate crime.
Because the government is now a protected class?
This is the sort of absurdity we invite when a free society begins trying to categorize what is and is not acceptable speech. Either we have 1st amendment free speech, or we do not.
Increasingly, given the fervor behind anti-bullying laws and “hate speech” laws which seek to silence controversial or provocative statements, it seems that we do not.