The idea of freedom of speech is perhaps one of the most overused—and abused—constitutional concepts in American society today. Whenever someone is justifiably criticized for using offensive speech, the First Amendment right to free speech is almost invariably cited. The first point that many seem to show immense difficulty understanding is that the Constitution restricts the actions of the government when dealing with citizens. Breathlessly citing the constitutional right to free speech outside of the correct context of addressing the government’s desire to quash the speech of citizens is nonsensical. Moreover, it is generally those who cite “freedom of speech” whenever people disagree with their offensive speech who are trying to shut down debate. People have the right to make offensive remarks, just as others have the right to say that those remarks are abhorrent. Dissenting speech is also a part of free speech. Many think that free speech entitles them to say offensive things without having to deal with the consequences of anyone being offended. While the Constitution protects the right to offend, the Constitution does not protect people from censure and other social consequences of being deliberately offensive.
Recently, in McKinney, Texas—a part of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex—a bikini-clad teenage girl, Dajerria Becton, who was attending a pool party with her friends, was manhandled by an overly aggressive police officer, David Eric Casebolt. Casebolt wrestled her to the floor, handcuffed her, and placed his knee on her back. The incident was filmed by an intrepid white teenager, Brandon Moore. From the footage, it is clear that there is no conceivable way that it can be argued that she posed a threat to the officer. It is also clear that his use of force was utterly unnecessary and barbarically excessive. The video evidence was so damning that Casebolt resigned from his job as an officer. In the wake of this incident of police brutality, there have been many reactions. Despicably, Alberto Iber, then a principal of a school in North Miami, left a Facebook comment in support of the demonstrably abusive officer. He wrote: “He did nothing wrong. He was afraid for his life. I commend him for his actions.” Iber was later fired from his job. While this principal is entitled to his opinion, the clearly visible video evidence shows that the officer was hyper-aggressive and none of his actions, or the actions of the teenage Becton, would lead a reasonable person to believe that he was, or should have been, in fear for his life. This is an open-and-shut case of police brutality. Those defending the officer are willfully defending the abuse of citizens.
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