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Crime & Justice

After Charlottesville violence, where should we draw the line between a legal rally and an illegal one?




Activists and protesters gesture at a man wearing a confederate flag before a KKK rally in Charlottesville, Virginia on July 8, 2017.
Activists and protesters gesture at a man wearing a confederate flag before a KKK rally in Charlottesville, Virginia on July 8, 2017.
ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP/Getty Images

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At what point does the First Amendment no longer apply? When does an assembly cross that line?

This is one of the biggest questions we face as we talk about violence and tragedy in Charlottesville:  our right to free speech. At what point does it conflict with the public good? 

According to Justin Levitt, professor at Loyola University Law School and formerly Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Rights Division in the Department of Justice, the line that protects our rights to free speech should be very hard to cross. 

"The argument for permitting it,  even when it's disgusting, is that you don't want the government deciding which speech is okay and which speech is not okay," said Levitt, in an interview with Take Two host A Martínez. "And that preventing people from speaking not only makes martyrs out of those who would speak, but can lead to some pretty horrible consequences. Even worse than the sort of intolerance and the sort of despicable neo-Nazi attitudes of some of those who are marching in Charlottesville."

To hear the full conversation between Martínez and Levitt, use the blue media player at the top of the page.