Tension Between Free Speech, Patriotism Sparks Protest At Georgia University
On Friday South Georgia’s Valdosta State University was shut down following a mass protest that was brought about by tensions between the ideals of patriotism and the subject of free speech.
Local media outlets reported that thousands of people had gathered outside the University’s gate waving the American flags.
Atlanta’s WSB-TV reporter, Matt Belanger, said that the protestors came in large numbers using motorcycles; The protesters carried large American flags and were chanting “U.S.A, U.S.A, U.S.A.”
It is believed that all this issue started last weekend when an American Veteran Michelle Manhart tried to take an American flag from a group of protesters who were desecrating it, luckily or unluckily someone recorded the whole incident on video and as a result the story became regional news.
According to a report that was published by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Manhart was banned from the university, something that Dr William J. McKinney, the university’s president, denies.
In a statement McKinney explained that, “While we respect the strong feelings held by many regarding our nation and its symbols, we also respect the rights of our students, faculty, and staff to express themselves through constitutionally protected symbolic expression in an environment that encourages, rather than discourages, civil debate. The events of April 17, and those in its aftermath, display just such expression.
“In 1989, the U.S. Supreme Court decided in the Texas v. Johnson case that the First Amendment protects symbolic political expression, even with the American flag. As Justice Brennan stated in that decision, 'If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.”