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Oregon ACLU: Limiting Speech Wrong Response To Portland Attacks

Vigils organized in the wake of the MAX attack called on Portlanders and Oregonians to unite against hate.

Friday’s horrific attack on a TriMet train has prompted a debate among Oregonians about the difference between free speech and hate speech.

Two men were killed and another seriously injured when they attempted to stop another man from berating two teenage girls with racist and anti-Muslim language.

Now Mayor Ted Wheeler is urging the federal government to stop two rallies planned for Portland in coming weeks. One is billed as a “Trump Free Speech” rally. The other is a “March Against Sharia,” and it is part of a nationwide anti-Muslim demonstration.

Wheeler says the events should be canceled.

Mat dos Santos, the legal director of the ACLU of Oregon, says Wheeler’s call to block the rallies is well-intentioned but incorrect.

“The mayor isn’t just any Portlander,” dos Santos told OPB on Tuesday’s “Morning Edition.” “He’s a government official, and he’s sworn to uphold the Constitution — even when it isn’t politically popular.

“… It’s troubling to hear him get the law so wrong.”

Dos Santos notes that hateful speech is still protected by the First Amendment.

“Without an imminent threat of violation, it’s censorship,” he said. “Generally speaking, First Amendment rights stop when they invite violence.”

To listen to the entire conversation, use the audio player at the top of this story.

First Ammendment Ted Wheeler Mat dos Santos free speech

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