On Friday, a group of tiki torch–wielding white nationalists converged on a statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Virginia, waving Confederate flags and chanting. Today that exercise in free speech—for and against the vile, wildly wrongheaded notion that America's greatness is in any way related to the supremacy of the white race—escalated to violence, with numerous scuffles between protesters and counter-protesters, and finally a car plowing through the crowd:
Video of car hitting anti-racist protestors. Let there be no confusion: this was deliberate terrorism. My prayers with victims. Stay home. pic.twitter.com/MUOZs71Pf4— Brennan Gilmore (@brennanmgilmore) August 12, 2017
In a time when a surprising number of Americans believe that hate speech is against the law, this is a good moment to remember that while (very nearly) all speech is legal, assault is not. Charlottesville was right to let the protest go on, and local law enforcement is right to take legal action to stop the violence now.
Lots of questions on this today:
"Hate speech" isn't a legal term, but the law is clear— speech expressing hateful feelings is protected.— ACLU National (@ACLU) August 9, 2017
If the government gets to decide which speech is hate speech, the powers that be may later feel free to censor any speech they don't like.— ACLU National (@ACLU) August 9, 2017
Restricting any group or individual's speech jeopardizes everyone's rights. The same laws used to silence bigots can be used to silence you.— ACLU National (@ACLU) August 9, 2017
Reason's Ronald Bailey wrote about the fight over Confederate monuments in Charlottesville earlier this year, and will have a dispatch live from the scene shortly.