News' stand on protests arrogant
Wednesday, January 23, 2002
(Opinion printed in the Deseret News)
By Stephen C. Clark (Legal Director for ACLU of Utah)
For those who believe in the Constitution and the basic American values it protects, it is a good thing that the Deseret News editorial board is not in charge of regulating demonstrations during the Winter Olympics and that its editorials on the subject have held no sway with the public officials who are in charge. Instead, for the most part, those officials have acted responsibly in seeking to protect both freedom of speech and public safety, and they are to be commended.
The Deseret News has made no secret of its disdain for those who might seek to express any viewpoint that derogates or detracts from its idealized vision of the Olympics as a forum for wholesome athletic competition and international good will.
"Protests have little to do with the Winter Games," it opined last August, dismissing those with different views as "troublemakers" and "hooligans" (Security, safety vital to Games," Deseret News, Aug. 8). Lee Benson earlier insisted, only half-jokingly, that the Olympics "shouldn't be about protests. There should be no pickets, period. The Olympics is when people are supposed to get along" ("A picket against protesters," Deseret News, May 11).
Most recklessly, the Deseret News recently characterized demonstrations as "unseemly, even bordering on terroristic," to the extent they take place outside the few small "designated protest zones" the city has set aside for that purpose, and repeated its opinion that "these disruptions have nothing to do with Olympic competition" (Protesters should honor Games," Deseret News, Jan. 16).
In contrast with this view, one highly respected opinion journal called the modern Olympics a "moral farce." Promoted to foster friendship, peace and solidarity, the Games now subvert ideals of freedom and human rights on which any meaningful international solidarity must be based.
Designed as a tribute to human excellence, the Olympics are not a testament to human greed ("Games Over," The New Republic, Oct. 2).
Whatever one might think of the Olympics, however, it is clear that Falun Gong practitioners, animal-rights advocates, organization devoted to helping women and children in poverty and anyone else with passion for a cause have every right to use any forum legally available to them to publicize their views.
For the Deseret News to suggest that only its view should be permitted is, to paraphrase the editorial board, arrogant, even bordering on authoritarian.