Freedom of speech, continued

Clyde Haberman, in the New York Times:

Normally, the forecast is someone else’s department. But this time it has political potential. They say it will snow tomorrow, with temperatures no higher than the mid-20’s. It will be interesting to see if bad weather affects the turnout for the large antiwar rally planned near the United Nations headquarters. Some less-than-hardy souls may stay home.

They would have been able to stay warmer had they been allowed to march through the streets, as the organizers wanted. Marching keeps the blood pumping. History shows that it also lets people get their message across more forcefully than a stationary rally.

But City Hall, the police and the courts all said no to a march in Manhattan, saying that security concerns trump First Amendment considerations. Never mind that a police commander told a federal judge last week that he had no reason to expect violence.

“The court bought, hook, line and sinker, the undifferentiated-fear factor,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, which had argued that marches are a vital form of free speech. Yes, we now live with security fears, Ms. Lieberman said. But the concerns in regard to the antiwar march were so “nonspecific” that the police themselves could not cite one.

And if a march is unacceptable now, said City Councilman Bill Perkins, a Manhattan Democrat, “what are we going to do when the Republican convention comes to New York City” next year?