Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Chicago mayor seeks to quell dissenting voices

Up in the Windy City, Mayor Rahm Emanuel is preparing to host both a NATO summit and the G8 summit. And, since we're living in a dangerous world, new security measures are a must.

Mr. Emanuel wants to spend money on the summits without first getting approval from the City Council. He wants local police to be empowered to deputize out-of-state law enforcement officers and he wants to be able to restrict the times and locations of protests.

He claimed the requested measures would be temporary - to shut down protesters while the world's eyes were on Chicago. But, like most "temporary" government measures, the changes would have been permanent. The police want more power to deal with any possible scenario - no matter how far-fetched it might be.

Here's an idea, Mr. Emanuel, why not allow Chicago to be a shining beacon of just what the First Amendment means. You chose to have these summits come to your city; in other words, you invited the problems you foresee. Let the world see just how much the right to assemble and voice your grievances means to Americans.

The greatest threat to democracy, Mr. Mayor, is intolerance of differing opinions. Sure, free speech can be ugly. It can be rude. It can be inconvenient. But the people's dissent serves as a check on government. Instead of being afraid of what protesters might say and do while the world is watching, embrace this celebration of the Bill of Rights.

People have died in the streets of Cairo, Damascus and other cities throughout the Arab world over the last year because the authoritarian regimes would not tolerate dissent. In this country we have witnessed the orderly handing over of power for more than two centuries because dissenting opinions are not only tolerated, but encouraged.

Petty tyrants must be in control of everything. Differing opinions must not be tolerated. A true democrat embraces the cacophony of voices and celebrates the people's right to be heard.

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