EDITORIAL: Rally fails to elicit First Amendment debate

By Staff Writer
September 30, 2004

If anything is to be learned from the recent Nazi rally in Valley Forge Park, it was the realization that the louder individual is not always the most intelligent. The event was in no way a test of the right to freedom of speech rather it turned out to be a screaming contest between the two opposing groups., while an intelligent gathering, a Rally for Social Justice, offered the only positive message of the day.

The Rally for Social Justice heard the father of Michael Berg, recently slain in Iraq, speak about how he overcame his initial hatred for his son’s murderers.

The concern over what the Nazis were going to say became a dead issue when demonstrators began chants of heckles and insults to the Nazis. Both Nazi advocates and Nazi protesters failed to provide any inspirational dialogue. It’s unfortunate that the days leading up to the rally had more potential for a debate and dialogue over the right to freedom of speech than the event itself.

It was refreshing to hear Cabrini take a stance on the Nazi issue. Although the Cabrini administration disagrees with the message of the American Nazi Party, the college was firm on their belief in the right to freedom of speech. A petition made its way around campus declaring Cabrini’s community opinion on what Cabrini called the “hateful message” spread by the National Socialist Party.

To spark even more interest for the rally, the communication department was offering extra credit for those willing to attend and write an opinion piece on freedom of speech. The idea that students would be representing Cabrini and use this as an opportunity to discuss the topic of freedom of speech sounded promising.

Unfortunately, Cabrini sent out emails, recorded voicemails and posted notices stating the college no longer sanctioned the arrangements made between the communications professors and its students. Although the administration had every right to overreact to the possibility to a threat of violence, it was disappointing from a viewer’s perspective to not hear the voices of Cabrini participants.

Cabrini stated in a letter from the community, “We call on other institutions and individuals who share our vision to join us in countering the National Socialists’ polarizing and hateful message with words and actions that support our national will to build a society that uses the gifts of all to extend the rights and responsibilities of freedom to all.” It was discouraging to see Cabrini fall short on their promise to the community.

It is reasonable to go as far as not sanctioning the rally for Cabrini students but attempting to instill fear in them appears excessive. The police on hand easily outnumbered both sides and were well equipped to handle the situation. From first hand experience, the Loquitur witnessed the police’s quick reaction to aggressive protestors.

By having this overwhelming numbers of police, any violent incidents were prevented from going to the extreme. The event lacked any purpose besides the obvious media grabbing attention that both sides craved. The organization of the rally was horrible with both sides lacking any cohesive direction. When an extremist group like the Black Panthers arrives late to the rally, it was clear that they didn’t even know what they were doing there.

By the end of the rally, the question loomed how much did the state of Pennsylvania have to pay in order to accommodate for safety concerns? The only things the Nazi accomplished were drawing the attention of some local news organizations and costing the state money for providing law enforcement. For all the policing and media coverage, the entire assembly of Nazis and anti-Nazi protestors was a demonstrations flop.

The Nazi rally served no function in challenging the right to freedom of speech. A shout fest between these two groups did nothing to dispute the boundaries of freedom of speech. The rally at Valley Forge Park had only one real achieved goal and that was allowing nonsensical shouts to reign throughout the glorious Saturday afternoon.

Posted to the Web by Lori Iannella

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