A September gathering of Neo-Nazis in Eau Claire was canceled two weeks ago due to controversy and threats, a Pioneer Press article states.
The National Socialist Movement (NSM) event was set to take place at noon on Sept. 16 in Phoenix Park. The city was never contacted about the organization’s plans to gather in the park, city officials said.
The Spectator editorial board gathered to discuss whether or not these events advocating for strong, hateful views should be allowed to take place at all.
At first, members didn’t seem to agree or disagree with the question.
One member said, “I agree with the fact that people shouldn’t preach hate, but people have the right to have an opinion.”
The next speakers agreed with the first that citizens have freedom of speech, but the question depends on the situation.
“It (the circumstance) is situational, unfortunately,” one speaker said. “If the community thinks it’s threatening, then it’s not okay.”
Other speakers mentioned that hate protests and events are always met with counter-protests of love.
“Humans are reactive, not proactive. That’s how change happens,” one speaker said.
Another brought up that these hateful events often result in acts of violence, which is against the law — along with hate speech.
“At what point do we say you can’t do the protest?” one member asked. They also mentioned some of these events may be hateful, but not fall under the legal definition of hate speech, and therefore not necessarily be unlawful.
The next person to speak mentioned that if we keep taking away the right to say things or protest certain subjects, when is freedom of speech no longer a guaranteed right?
Another factor brought up by the board is the definition of hate speech. The legal definition is rather ambiguous, making it hard to draw a conclusion in this circumstance, one member said. Even if you can assume what will be said at these protests, there’s no way to truly know if it will fall under the legal definition of hate speech, one speaker said.
The Spectator editorial board voted 2-5-1 against hateful protests being allowed to take place, with one member ultimately choosing to abstain from voting.