A friend of mine recently shared with me an article about freedom of speech at the Kansas City Library that I thought was very interesting. A summary of the events that occurred is as follows:
A public speaker, Dennis Ross, was at the library, and the library decided to hire outside security for the event. Part of this agreement with this security was that "nobody was to be prevented from asking a controversial question and the security team would consult with library officials before ejecting any nonviolent patrons." However, when a patron asked some controversial questions of the speaker, one of the guards attempted to eject the patron from the library. Additionally, one of the guards stated that they were at a private event and that the library was private property. When the library director attempted to intervene and protect the patron's rights, the guards violently arrested him.
The library wanted this event to blow over, and thus the event was not reported widely until last month, even though it took place in May. However, I think this is an important event to be aware of. The library should be a place in which everyone should feel free to question ideas and concepts without being punished. Even when the questions and ideas being put forth are disagreed upon by the library and any persons of authority--such as the security guards--if they are being presented in a peaceful manner, they should be permitted.
The concept of libraries protecting freedom of speech is something we can take for granted (especially if we are in a program surrounded by like-minded people in a student group dedicated to the idea, for instance). However, this incident shows that there can be real world consequences for protecting this right. Yes, the line between hate speech and free speech is one that is sometimes crossed and sometimes not seen at all, as many individuals on the Internet with an opinion and a keyboard will tell you. However, by standing up for the right to ask questions in a public forum, libraries can help to define this line and lead this discussion by setting a strong example.
What do you think?
Here is another link describing the incident.