Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler is at odds with the Oregon chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) following a series of tweets where the mayor asked federal authorities to revoke permits for upcoming “Alt-Right” rallies in his city.
The announcement from the mayor came after a known white-supremacist murdered two men and injured another on a Portland light-rail train Friday evening. Mayor Wheeler released a statement through Twitter that quickly drew the ire of the ACLU, specifically for a passage that was perceived as a call to restrict free speech:
“I am calling on the federal government to IMMEDIATELY REVOKE the permit(s) they have issued for the June 4th event and to not issue a permit for June 10th. Our City is in mourning, our community’s anger is real, and the timing and subject of these events can only exacerbate an already difficult situation.”
In response, a tweet from the ACLU of Oregon read, “The government cannot revoke or deny a permit based on the viewpoint of the demonstrators. Period.” The group explained its stance in full through its own series of tweets:
“It may be tempting to shut down speech we disagree with, but once we allow the government to decide what we can say, see, or hear, or who we can gather with, history shows us that the most marginalized will be disproportionately censored and punished for unpopular speech.
We are all free to reject and protest ideas we don’t agree with. That is a core, fundamental freedom of the United States. If we allow the government to shutdown speech for some, we all will pay the price down the line.”
A subsequent tweet from Mat dos Santos, legal director for the ACLU of Oregon, explained that the organization is sympathetic to the tragedy that occurred in Portland:
Our hearts are broken, but government censorship is not the answer. We must defend the constitution even when it is uncomfortable. https://t.co/7K33oLAbcZ
— Mat dos Santos (@MatPDX) May 29, 2017
The tweets from the ACLU of Oregon have been met with plenty of criticism from residents of Portland who disagree with the organization’s stance, but the ACLU has stood firm.
“If the government has concrete evidence of an imminent threat they can and should address it, without restricting [First Amendment] rights of all,” it tweeted in response to a message from one concerned Twitter user.