Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Sometimes it's hard to defend free speech

For defenders of free speech, a headline like "Three Yale students arrested for burning U.S. flag," is worrisome, or worse. Isn't that a fight that was won years ago, when the Supreme Court declared that the First Amendment protects such acts, incendiary as they may be?

But then it turns out that the students in question did not own the flag. Not only that, but the flag they burned was attached to a flagpole, and the flagpole was attached to a house. And it was still flying from that flagpole, attached to that house, when they set it ablaze.

So the three--two of whom turn out to be foreign nationals (not that that should mean anything) were not charged with flag-burning, as such, but with arson, reckless endangerment and lesser offenses.

Still, when they appeared for arraignment they were attired in leg irons and handcuffs. Would that have been the case if the flag in question had had a Budweiser label on it, instead of the stars and stripes? You be the judge.

1 comment:

The River said...

But then it turns out that the students in question did not own the flag. Not only that, but the flag they burned was attached to a flagpole, and the flagpole was attached to a house. And it was still flying from that flagpole, attached to that house, when they set it ablaze.

I feel sorry for these guys because they are students and they've perhaps ruined
their futures.

As you pointed out - this isn't really a free speech issue so I won't even begin to defend their actions on that ground. They made a very serious error in judgment and they better hope they can convince a judge that they are really good guys and will behave in the future.