Since 2000, there has been a huge growth in anti-Bush, anti-Republican, pro-socialist groups of every sort. Every one of these groups has the right to arrange their own demonstrations and publish their views and get their point across in the media. Some of the protests in the US attracted in excess of 50,000 protestors from around the country. However, that is not good enough for them. Instead, they have been actively disrupting the free speech of others who they do not agree with, forcing their 'free speech' onto those in attendance, turning them into captive audiences.
There are two main ways that these people steal a little free speech.
First, there are those who simply show up at events. For example, wherever President Bush shows up, there is certain to be protesters in attendance nearby. This can be a political speech, or even a graduation ceremony as in the picture below.
To these people, the events themselves mean nothing nor do they care that their actions may detract from the event itself. President Bush is not the only target. Vice President Cheney has his own 'cheering section' as does Carl Rove and other major Republicans. Some liberals, like Hillary Clinton, have also found themselves in the same situation dealing with extremists from their own party.
For many, protesting outside an event is not enough. They have to actually disrupt the event. Take Medea Benjamin of Codepink. She disrupted a speech by the Prime Minister of Iraq to Congress. The Prime Minister was invited to speak, not her. No problem for a free speech thief. All she has to do is wait for the right moment to start ranting and raving.
Now Codepink and all the other protest groups can legally protest. However, that does not generate the exposure that they think they deserve so they have to go and interrupt the meetings of others to get some press coverage. This shows complete disrespect for free speech because they are trampling over the free speech of others as well as trampling on the rights of the rest of us to not listen to them. This would be like me posting on the front page of the NY Times without their permission. I would gain instant access to their entire readership and they would have no control over my content. Then again, nobody is buying the NY Times to read my writings.
Sadly, many of these people have nothing substantial to say, they are only able to disrupt the free speech of others.
Then you have those whose 'free speech' activities almost defy description. Take the religious group that protests at the funeral of soldiers killed in action. These people have no respect for the rights of others, let alone the last rights of a person being buried. It is only the good nature of the rest of us, that their church, the Westboro Baptist Church, located at 3701 W. 12th Street in Topeka, KS (Regular service time is 11:30 a.m. (Central time)) is not filled with protesters exercising their rights to call them every name in the book.
Free speech does work both ways. Do you really want to be confronting everywhere you go by people who have a chip on their shoulder and want to make sure that you know about it. These people are already all over Washington, DC. I don't know about you, but if I want to know how you feel or think about something, then I will have a conversation with you, or attend one of your protests, or I might even read your blog. Confronting me is a sure way for me to quickly decide that whatever your position is, I will be against it.
We went to the graduation at Kings Point to see (and listen to) the President who was the speaker. On the way out we walked past the crowd of protesters, who at the time were being pushed onto the sidewalk by mounted police as they were blocking the street. At the time their free speech consisted of some anti-Bush posters and chants of "Get those animals off those horses." As my dad walked by he put on a big smile and started waving his middle finger at the protesters. He then asked an officer "It's ok to give them the finger?" The officer replied "Absolutely! It's your right."
So it is.
The response from the protesters was to get at him to get his attention so that he could see that they were waving the peace sign back at him. Not that he cared about what they thought at all. That was the same for the others who walked past.
Makes you wonder why they bother and it certainly is proof that there is no real restrictions on their free speech. It's not like any of these people are being rounded up and put in jail (or Gitmo). Although some of them should spend some time behind bars, like when you interrupt a session of Congress.
Here is my dad exercising his right to free speech. He did it with a smile. (In case your wondering, that's me behind him.
Iraqi leader urges Congress: Stand by us - Carlsbad Current
Protest at the US Merchant Marine Academy - Next Left Notes
Funeral Protesters no Show - KVii News
A modest proposal, regarding the protesters at soldiers' funerals - Alpaca Burger