When Milo Yiannopoulos was scheduled to give a speech at University of California-Berkeley, riots broke out that caused more than $100,000 worth of damage. Then the school newspaper published five essays supporting the violence. Are these riots protected under free speech? Which is protected under the Constitution, potentially offensive speech or violent demonstrations?
Horace Cooper, legal fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research and co-chair of Project 21, appeared on the Fox News Channel’s “O’Reilly Factor” February 10. He referred to a famous sit-in in civil rights history, then flipped it on its head:
“If five people go to a Woolworths restaurant to peaceably demonstrate that they believe that they have a right to be there, the rhetoric that was demonstrated in these op-eds and the behavior that we saw at Berkeley means that it would have been ok for masked intruders to go to Woolworths to beat the hell out of them because they don’t agree with what they’re standing for. The first Amendment’s purpose is for us to have a civil disagreement, to bring the strong argument, not violence… And if they are this bright, then this is dangerous, a sign of where we’re headed.”
Later Cooper again said that violence is not justified when someone disagrees with someone’s message, refuting that “something someone is going to say gives me a heckler’s veto not just to interject myself, but to burn the place down, to threaten and assault and attack people.”
“What if this had been a gay pride event on the campus,” Cooper continued, “and some individuals decided to put masks on and they were going to shut this down because they didn’t agree and they were going to do it with violence? This is unacceptable.”
Cooper’s full appearance can be seen below: