At its most basic level, free speech is not a difficult concept to grasp: I say my view, and you say your view. Recently, however, FIRE has encountered a disturbing trend: people claiming that vandalizing, heckling, or otherwise shutting people up is an exercise rather than a violation of free speech. FIRE’s Robert Shibley highlighted this trend in a recent piece for the Daily Caller, recalling a series of incidents on the campus of Northern Kentucky University (NKU) where students vandalized other students’ pro-life displays. (The first time this happened, they were actually encouraged to do so by a professor, Sally Jacobsen.) Last year, at Sam Houston State University, another professor, Joe E. Kirk, took a box cutter to a "free speech wall" to vandalize speech he did not like.
Well, it’s happened again, in a much more dangerous manner, this time at Dartmouth University. I called the Hanover, New Hampshire, police department, and they were able to inform me that Emery S. Coxe, Dartmouth ‘12, has been charged with disorderly conduct for allegedly driving his Toyota Camry off the road and over a pro-life display on the Dartmouth green. Coxe, 22, will appear in court next Monday, June 11.
Driving a car over an expressive display simply because you don’t like the speech is not just dangerous-this sort of action threatens the very foundations of a free society. And one minor point: it’s also illegal.
The Daily Caller has also picked up the story.