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Tag: Pro-Palestinian Protests

The Right to Protest Applies to Everyone

pro-palestinian protest

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

— U.S. Constitution, First Amendment

From coast to coast and college to college, students are protesting Israel’s genocidal war against the Palestinian people. Politicians on the left and the right seem ignorant of the First Amendment and its protections of free speech and protest. Many of the protesters are anti-Zionists and not anti-Semites. Just because the protesting students oppose the state of Israel doesn’t mean they are anti-Semites. But, even if they are, it doesn’t matter. The First Amendment protects anti-Zionists and anti-Semites alike, just as it protects those supporting Israel’s murderous actions in Gaza. It seems that far too many Americans, including politicians on both sides of the aisle, think anti-Semitic speech is not constitutionally protected; that people should be arrested and prosecuted for saying anti-Israel slogans.

All speech (on public property) is protected (with a few narrow, specific exceptions), including that of Donald Trump, MAGA nutters, KKK members, and other racists. Evangelical Christians are free to say all sorts of things that decent, thoughtful people find repugnant and offensive. Just because someone’s speech offends you doesn’t mean he or she should be silenced. If a group of people want to protest ____________ on public property, whether you like it or not is irrelevant. That something is offensive is not grounds for arrest and prosecution. One of the reasons the United States is so great is that freedom of speech and protest are sacrosanct. All that college students are currently doing is exercising their Constitutional rights to speak their minds in public. Don’t like it? Tough shit. I personally support the pro-Palestinian protesters. I agree with their point of view. That said, if it were pro-MAGA or pro-Christian people protesting, I would also resolutely support their right to do so. Either the First Amendment applies to all of us, or it doesn’t apply to any of us. When it comes to free speech, ALL of us should be on the same page.

I will soon be sixty-seven years old. I vividly remember the protests and riots in Los Angeles and Detroit. I remember civil rights protests and opposition to the draft and the Vietnam War. These protests forced the end of the Vietnam War and the enactment of the Civil Rights Act. Protests can and do make a difference.

Local, state, and federal governments seem to have learned nothing from the upheaval of the 1960s. Who can forget armed police and National Guard soldiers using force to quell protests, including murdering four students at Kent State? What do we see today? More police and soldiers armed to the teeth, using tear gas, rubber bullets, and physical violence to put an end to pro-Palestinian protests. The difference between 1968 and today? Our police forces have been militarized, stocked with automatic weapons and other tools of war. What possibly could go wrong?

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Bruce Gerencser