In wake of Charlottesville, Georgetown University leads talk on free speech

WASHINGTON — A leading voice of the Black Lives Matter movement argued for curbs on free speech while a federal judge and a veteran American Civil Liberties Union lawyer offered a spirited defense of the Constitution’s First Amendment guarantee.

The discussion took place at a Georgetown University roundtable on Oct. 30, as part of the university’s ongoing Free Speech Project.

“Incitement is not protected speech so the question is who gets to decide what’s inciting or not,” said civil rights activist DeRay Mckesson, arguing that white nationalists such as those who marched in Charlottesville should not be allowed to spread their ideas because their ideas promote violence.

“That mere spouting has directly led to people dying not a generation ago,” Mckesson said, pointing to KKK lynchings of the 20th century.

“But it wasn’t their words, persay, that killed those folks — it was the words plus the action,” countered U.S. District Judge Paula Xinis.

Mckesson, Xinis, Spitzer and former Charlottesville Police Chief Tim Longo took part in the hourlong panel discussion called “The Shadow of Charlottesvile: Free Speech at a Crossroads.”

The seminar, which included questions from students, was organized by the school’s newly created Free Speech Project, which promises a nonpartisan and independent study of the condition of free speech in the nation.

“It seems to me we should respect the rights of other people to speak and to be heard by those who want to hear them,” said Spitzer, the legal director of the ACLU of D.C.


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