Silencing free speech is dangerous

Belen Sassone/ Contributing Writer

Time and time again, we have seen the brutal images of peaceful protests turned violent. Groups of people gathering to express how they feel about injustice should be a healing experience for those who participate, but often times, law enforcement officials don’t allow these demonstrations to end positively.

Last week, multiple protests in St. Louis over the acquittal of Jason Stockley — a police officer who murdered an African-American man in 2011 — ended in complete chaos. In one instance, protesters and people who happened to be on the street were boxed in by police officers on all sides and met with tear gas and unnecessary arrests.

Although free speech is one of the most talked about rights, it seems that it should only be protected when it aligns with what the police want to hear.

Despite the negative attention that law enforcement received after the incident, they seemed to show no remorse as they paraded the streets shouting, “Who’s streets? Our streets!” — a line made famous by protesters — a few days later.

When police violently silence those who are justified in their protests and boast about it, they are creating a dangerous environment.

While the actions of those officers who kill innocent people don’t reflect everyone in law enforcement, standing by them in support only increases feelings of insecurity among the public, which, in turn, heightens tensions and paints them in a negative light.

When these unfortunate cases of police abusing their power arise, the overall response should be embarrassment. If their purpose is to protect the public, then there shouldn’t be so many people dead at their hands accompanied with shady explanations and tampered evidence.

If someone decides to take advantage of their position over the public, then they should be prosecuted just as harshly as anyone else, not placed on a paid leave of absence and given a slap on the wrist in the form of an acquittal.

Civilians feel despair over the fact that police officers are treated as if they were above the law and entitled to their freedom. A life is a life no matter whom it belongs to, and if they don’t acknowledge that, then it will open the door for more public distrust in these police officials.

Breaking up protests in the way that they do may also lead to actual violent attacks on them, which is preventable only if they listen to the protesters that they want to make disappear.

Although the current relationship between police and civilians is broken, through cooperation and understanding, it could improve.

Police need to understand where the emotions of protesters stem from and put themselves in their shoes. Those killed are often portrayed as guilty, although their death at the fault of the police prevents them from telling their side of the story.

All protesters want is for justice to be served. With every officer that gets acquitted of their crimes, the anger only grows in the hearts of civilians.

 

DISCLAIMER:

The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of Panther Press Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.

 

Photo taken from Flickr.

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