The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) changed its policy so that it no longer defends hate groups promoting violence. In non-violent situations, then, the ACLU will represent the Ku Klux Klan, the Nation of Islam, and the National Socialist Party of America. In violent situations, no.
What is the ACLU, why does it defend such repulsive groups and what happened to change their policy in this narrow way?
The ACLU is a our nation’s great defender of civil liberties. The people working at the ACLU file cases in courts and work to pass bills that advance or defend civil liberties. They work hard to ensure a working democracy.
Why does the ACLU defend the KKK and their ilk? It defends each and every person’s right to free expression and free assembly, regardless of their beliefs. The ACLU is a nonpartisan group that does not defend people because it agrees with them. It defends the rights, not the individuals or organizations.
So why the recent change? The ACLU reconsidered its policy after the Charlottesville violence and fallout. After such consideration, the ACLU announced that it does not want to defend white supremacists who promote violence. If a protest group asks to be defended in their right to carry loaded firearms, the ACLU will no longer defend them.
As explained by ACLU spokeswoman Stacy Sullivan, “We’ve had people with odious views, all manner of bigots. But not people who want to carry weapons and are intent on committing violence.” The ACLU is therefore examining whether or not our government can regulate our First Amendment right to demonstrate when armed.
I agree that there is a huge difference between hateful speech and speech intended to invoke violence. The presence of clearly displayed weapons at a demonstration being held by hate group members perfectly demonstrates the fact that currently the Second Amendment right to bear arms trumps the First Amendment right to free speech. Does this seem fair or right? Maybe it did at the time the United States Constitution was written. But not in today’s climate.