The America Civil Liberties Union is reportedly struggling over whether or not to defend the free speech rights of hate groups, and how.
In the aftermath of the violent rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, three of the ACLU's California affiliates came out last Wednesday stating that "white supremacist violence is not free speech."
The ACLU has since stated that they will not represent white supremacist demonstrators who bring guns to rallies, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The new stance marks a break from the law group's former position on the 2nd Amendment, which claimed that political ideology did not make carrying a firearm a violation. The ACLU had previously defended neo-Nazis' right to assembly after Charlottesville originally denied "Unite the Right" organizers a permit to hold their rally in a local park.
The ACLU filed a lawsuit in defense of the group's right to assembly, which is a position the ACLU has maintained for decades. But following the deadly and violent outcome of the last rally that took the life of a young woman and injured many others, as well as resulting in the accidental deaths of two state troopers, the judicial organization is now fighting amongst itself over their own limits in defending free speech.
In the press statement, California ACLU affiliates declared:
"We review each request for help on a case-by-case basis, but take the clear position that the 1st amendment does not protect people who incite or engage in violence...If white supremacists march into our towns armed to the teeth and with the intent to harm people, they are not engaging in activity protected by the United States Constitution."
The statement also said that "The 1st Amendment should never be used as a shield or sword to justify violence."
But some former ACLU members are now openly criticizing this new move. Samuel Walker, a former ACLU board member, claimed the statement was "irresponsible" and "not clear."
The ACLU has recently come under fire for representing controversial figure Milo Yiannopolous, drawing criticism from donors who had committed large sums to the organization for lawsuits against the Trump administration.
Unfortunately for these detractors, the only way for the ACLU to maintain its ability to defend free speech is to fight for all free speech; otherwise, it runs the risk of defying Constitutional law. Like their predecessors who fought for the free speech rights of the Klansmen in Skokie, Illinois, today's generation should understand that in order to maintain your own right to speech, you must also defend the rights of those with whom you disagree.
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