Should the National Parks Service give permits to hate groups? | The Tylt
Should the National Parks Service give permits to hate groups?
Rallies like "Unite the Right" frequently turn violent. They are led and attended by groups known to be hate groups, determined to exert their dominance over others. The Washington Post describes the dangers these groups pose:
The Southern Poverty Law Center is tracking 954 hate groups, which are increasingly turning to street action. Their members are often encouraged to carry guns to demonstrations to protect themselves against “leftist fascist groups.” Some far-right groups, such as the Rise Above Movement in California, recruit individuals, including members of skinhead gangs, who attend rallies across the country to openly brawl with counterprotesters.
In December, the city of Charlottesville denied Kessler's application for permits for the "Unite the Right 2" rally. Per The Washington Post:
On Monday, the city said Kessler's application for a rally next year "likely underestimates the number of participants" and declared that the city does not have the police resources to identify opposing groups and keep them separated.
"The applicant requests that police keep 'opposing sides' separate and that police 'leave' a 'clear path into event without threat of violence,' but city does not have the ability to determine or sort individuals according to what 'side' they are on, and no reasonable allocation of city funds or resources can guarantee that event participants will be free of any 'threat of violence,' " the city stated.
Charlottesville officials also said Kessler had included no information on how he would be responsible for the behavior of participants or how he could be held accountable for their adherence to city regulations.
Kessler is suing the city claiming they infringed upon his First Amendment rights.
Despite the danger that may be posed by these hate groups, the First Amendment protects all speech equally. As recently as June 2017, the Supreme court unanimously confirmed that "hate speech" is still protected under the First Amendment. The Washington Post quoted Justice Samuel Alito's decision:
[The idea that the government may restrict] speech expressing ideas that offend … strikes at the heart of the First Amendment. Speech that demeans on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, age, disability, or any other similar ground is hateful; but the proudest boast of our free speech jurisprudence is that we protect the freedom to express “the thought that we hate.”
Despite the heinous nature of the Unite the Right's speech, it's still protected under the Constitution.
The decision to provide permits ultimately fell to the National Park service, which maintains that it is dedicated to providing people with space to freely express their opinions, as is laid out in the First Amendment. National Park Service spokesman Mike Litterst explained the decision to grant Kessler's permit to ABC 12:
The event is sure to bring controversy, but he said it is mandatory to protect First Amendment rights and public safety.
"Ultimately we provide the venue for Americans to speak freely and the people that hear the message will ultimately be the judges," said Litterst.