“If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.”
Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis wrote that in Whitney v. California.
Jay Bernstein emailed me two weeks ago, disturbed that John Mearsheimer would be speaking at the World Trade Center in the Inner Harbor. Professor Mearsheimer, Jay wrote, is the co-author of a book that “accuses Jews who support Israel of damaging American interests and serving the interests of the Jewish State.”
Three state agencies are corporate members of the group hosting Mearsheimer, the Baltimore Council on Foreign Affairs. Their support of the Council was very troubling to Jay.
I responded by quoting Brandeis and suggesting that Jay attend the lecture and ask questions about the book or demonstrate outside, instead of having pressure applied to the state agencies.
Jay chose to demonstrate.
Not the end of story.
In the plaza outside the World Trade Center, there is a memorial dedicated to the sixty-nine citizens of Maryland who died in the terrorist attacks of 9/11. “All demonstrations and special events are prohibited” in this area, stated the Assistant Attorney General for the Maryland Port Administration, because MPA “has a reasonable and overriding interest in maintaining an atmosphere of calm, tranquility, and reverence on the WTC Plaza.”
The court ruling cited to support this restriction on free speech: the National Park Service can prohibit any demonstrations or special events from being held inside the Jefferson Memorial.
Jefferson must be rolling over in his memorial, I mused.
Negotiations began between the lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland and the Port Administration.
The day before the planned demonstration, I wrote the ACLU lawyer:
“Are you measuring lines in front of the World Trade Center? :-)”
“Almost!” he replied. “They’re proposing a limited area for this demo. We’re negotiating how large and where.”
Prof. Mearsheimer and Jay Bernstein exercised their 1st Amendment rights last night.
“We gave out 125 leaflets to attendees, engaged many of them in conversation, and definitely made our presence known, which was the whole point,” Jay wrote me.
Still not the end of story.
The Port Administration contends that it can prohibit future demonstrations.
That may result in litigation – or legislation.