by Mike Ferguson
(St. Charles, MO) – The questions and controversies you’ve seen on the news may impact you, no matter where you live in the Show Me State.
The unrest in Ferguson, Missouri still leaves more challenges than answers over a month after the shooting death of Michael Brown. While the debate continues over the police tactics during the aftermath of the shooting, there’s another discussion emerging from the controversy: did police violate the First Amendment rights of protesters?
Constitutional Attorney Dave Roland of the Freedom Center of Missouri thinks police went too far in trying to keep order. Among his concerns is the efforts made to control where news media were allowed to be and to stop pictures and videos from being recorded. Some protesters and reporters on the scene say they were ordered by police to not use their cameras. That’s an order many defied.
“What police are generally permitted to do is to ask people who are actively interfering with a law enforcement effort to step out of the way. The police cannot say ‘turn off your cameras. We don’t want you filming this.’ That would be a gross invasion of the freedom of press, the freedom of speech and, unfortunately, we saw some of that.”
Roland, in an interview on “Missouri Viewpoints” discusses why he believes those – and other – actions by law enforcement need to be challenged. He also explains his view of the role civil disobedience has in situations like the one in Ferguson. During the discussion, Roland was careful to note that not all of the actions by those involved in the unrest are protected as free speech.
As an example, Roland notes that law enforcement has the right and duty to try to stop activities like looting, arson, vandalism and other violence, which also occurred in Ferguson.
Also, what happens when free speech, political speech is negative speech? A Missouri organization called F.A.C.T. Compass wants to offer a free market solution to what they say is a destructive part of our political process: misleading or otherwise negative campaign ads. Daniel Rubenstein explains the goals, the methods and the opportunity for you to get involved.
F.A.C.T. Compass wants to take a similar approach to campaign ads as the Better Business Bureau takes with commercial organizations.
Daniel Rubenstein wants their seal of approval to eventually send voters a message: that the claims in the ad have been researched and found to be both accurate and in context. He believes the public is ready to demand the end of negative attack ads and wants them replaced with verifiable, honest ones.
“We think that, from talking with a lot of people, they’d like to see that happen. I mean, everyone seems to be frustrated with the negative advertising in political campaigns. It’s ridiculous. They’re taking small slivers of truth and turning them into a dagger and they’re avoiding the real issues.
“It’s time to talk about what’s going on and what they stand for, not just throwing mud.”
Generally speaking, the process they hope to use is one where candidates open up their ads to a truth audit of sorts. A team, or more than one team, of F.A.C.T. Compass researchers will verify the technical accuracy of the claims. They will also, according to Rubenstein, consider the context of the claims being made, especially the ones attacking another opponent.
If the ad passes the review, it will be allowed to display the F.A.C.T. Compass seal.
Rubenstein says everyone who joins the research teams will go through an assessment to identify their political leanings and teams will be put together that balances viewpoints. The audit-like process, research and approval will not be an endorsement of any candidate or party. It will only indicate that the claims have been verified as not misleading.
On the web:
Freedom Center of Missouri: www.MOFreedom.org
F.A.C.T. Compass: http://factcompass.com/