Seemingly untroubled by a planned “flag-dragging march” in downtown Lawrence, certain Lawrence citizens were offended by the “Defend our Flag” counter protest and demanded that the city commission prevent such free speech outrages in the future.
“It was completely disheartening to see,” said Lawrence resident Cam Cameron at the February 3 hearing. “Displaying an American flag is something, but displaying a Confederate flag is something else, and I want to be a part of moving forward, making sure these things don’t happen again.”
Given that Lawrence prides itself on being a “welcoming city,” one that is keen on “diversity” and “inclusion,” these citizens may well have thought that their will would prevail.
To their credit, after two weeks of deliberation, the city commissioners refused to honor their petition. “If there is a federal principle underlining the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of ideas simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable,” said Mayor Stuart Boley. “While many in our community found some of the events in February 2018 to be offensive in this environment, the city of Lawrence must protect free speech.”
Toni Wheeler, city attorney, reinforced the mayor. “Speech concerning public affairs is more than public expression; it is the essence of self government,” she said.
What provoked the fans of the flag draggers was the appearance of at least one Confederate flag among the Americans waved by the counter-protestors. Some apparently called that display a “nonproductive form of speech.” Micheal Almon, a citizen, explained his historically challenged reasoning to the city commission.
“The Confederacy went to war with the United States of America, our country,” said Almon. “Is that not treason? They would overthrow the United States of America. So somebody today waving the Confederate flag, to me that says the same thing, that should not be allowed. It’s not a matter of free speech for offensive reasons, but they’re advocating the overthrow of our government.” For the record, the Confederate states attempted to secede from the Union, not overthrow it, but that is rather beside the point.
The left’s selective war on free speech continues on all fronts. Although the Lawrence City Commission deserves credit for resisting the assault, it should not have taken two weeks to muster a defense.