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The Minnesota Daily

Serving the UMN community since 1900

The Minnesota Daily

Serving the UMN community since 1900

The Minnesota Daily

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Whose First Amendment

Two weeks ago, the city of Berkeley, Calif., decided that it didn’t care so much for free speech any more. At least not when it comes from the mouth of a U.S. Marine Corps recruiter.

In a resolution, the Berkeley City Council referred to recruiters as “unwelcome intruders” and “salespeople known to lie to and seduce minors and young adults.” It then practically endorsed the harassment of the recruiters by reserving a parking space in front of their office for the exclusive use of a protest group to block the entrance and gave the group a noise permit to blare music from loudspeakers. The initiative’s author has even compared military recruitment offices to pornography stores, in that they can be zoned out of an area to prevent the public from seeing them. If the resolution passes, military recruiters will be forced to apply for special permits and remain far away from public places.

The Berkeley City Council is entitled to its opinion, and it can pass as many symbolic resolutions as it likes denouncing the war in Iraq and the conflict’s tremendous costs in lives and dollars. But its denigration of speech that it disagrees with, a military recruiter asking citizens to serve their country and enlist, undermines that city’s proudest tradition and one that all Americans should share the right to say what we want.

A society that embraces free speech is guaranteed to be offended. Indeed, offensive speech – which is always in the eye of the beholder – is the only kind anyone tries to ban. As Woody Allen once joked about the Ku Klux Klan, “I think you should defend to the death their right to march, and then go down and meet them with baseball bats.”

Because public uproar has grown so great, the City Council will revisit the issue. We hope that when they do, protesters from both sides of the issue are there to hear it, and likewise make their voice heard. It’s the American way.

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