“Demonstrations similar to the Unite the Right rally are increasing in frequency. Lecia Brooks, outreach director for the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), says hate is growing in America. ‘People with hateful, bigoted thoughts… have become emboldened,’ Brooks says. This, in turn, has led to an uptick in demonstrations by hate groups that local leaders must plan for and deal with, she says. . . .
“‘The most important thing to recognize is that the First Amendment squarely prohibits government officials from penalizing groups or speakers based on the content of their message or disliking their message or based on their viewpoint,’ says Brian Hauss, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). ‘What cities and local officials can’t do is impose penalties on [hate groups] because they don’t like the message they’re espousing; they can’t deny them permits because they don’t like what they’re saying, or in any way attempt to stop them from speaking.’
“This doesn’t mean that local leaders have no recourse, though. What officials can, and should, do is ensure a robust law enforcement presence to ensure nothing gets out of hand, Hauss says. Cities can also engage in counter-programming to clearly condemn the values held by the demonstrating group. Additionally, cities can provide ample space for counter-protesters to come in and share their viewpoints. . . .
“Elected officials have an obligation to stand up for the rights of every person in their community, Brooks says. It’s important that diversity and inclusion are valued and this value is clearly demonstrated so hate cannot find an ally.”
FULL STORY published June 28, 2018 via American City & County