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It’s time for a Human Rights Act

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I wrote the following letter today to the Mayor and City Council in Portland, Oregon where I live at this time.

To the Mayor of Portland and the City Council,

The actions of one person this weekend who killed two men who were protecting two young women from the angry and racist remarks and actions of that individual made me begin to think seriously about what is free speech and what is termed “hate speech”.

I consider “hate speech” words that suggest or incite harmful actions against others  whether the suggestion is covert or overt. I do not consider that kind of speech “free speech”.

Everyone who lives in our city, state and country has the right to feel safe. Would you feel safe if someone called out you or someone in your family as different and therefore a person who should be eradicated or removed from this country?

If someone who is mentally unstable yells out bigoted and negative comments in public about someone based on how they look, their skin color, apparent religion or sexual orientation, with an overt or covert implication of violence, is that freedom of speech?

Our regulations and laws, are created to provide guidelines in how we are to interact with each other so that all in our society can have a relatively peaceful and productive existence. Therefore, actions such as murder, theft, bodily harm to others and rape have been out-lawed.

It appears that we need another guideline now in how to treat all with dignity and respect and provide a safe environment for everyone to live in with a ban on words spoken in public that focus on one group and is hateful and suggestive of harming members of that group.

Racists hide behind the term “free speech” to freely espouse their negative views of other who are different from themselves and ultimately to take action against those individuals or groups. 

Canada has a Human Rights Act that forbids hate propaganda. The laws based on this act prohibit advocating or promoting genocide and prohibit inciting hatred against any identifiable group where such incitement is likely to lead to a breach of the peace.  

 “Hate propaganda” is defined as “any writing, sign or visible representation that advocates or promotes genocide or the communication of which by any person would constitute an offence under section 319.”

Section 319 prescribes penalties from a fine to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years for anyone who incites hatred against any identifiable group.

Section 318 prescribes imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years for anyone who advocates genocide. The Code defines genocide as the destruction of an “identifiable group.” The Code defines an “identifiable group” as “any section of the public distinguished by colour, race, religion, ethnic origin or sexual orientation.”

Then the provinces and Canadian Territories have similar provisions. For example, for Prince Edward Island:

No person shall publish, display or broadcast, or permit to be published, displayed or broadcast on lands or premises, or in a newspaper or through a radio or television broadcasting station or by means of any other medium, any notice, sign, symbol, implement or other representation indicating discrimination or an intention to discriminate against any person or class of persons.

It’s time to put an end to this type of hateful behavior which many times devolves into violence and it should begin here, in Portland, where this aggressive act based on bigotry and hate has brought attention to this issue here and around the world.

It is now in your hands to create provisions in the City of Portland that protect all of us from actions that come from words based on bigotry and hate.

Dora Taylor

4 comments on “It’s time for a Human Rights Act

  1. Lloyd Lofthouse
    May 30, 2017

    Freedom of speech does not include the right:

    To incite actions that would harm others (e.g.,

    “[S]hout[ing] ‘fire’ in a crowded theater.”). Schenck v. United States, 249 U.S. 47 (1919).

    To make or distribute obscene materials. Roth v. United States, 354 U.S. 476 (1957).

    To burn draft cards as an anti-war protest. United States v. O’Brien, 391 U.S. 367 (1968).

    To permit students to print articles in a school newspaper over the objections of the school administration. Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, 484 U.S. 260 (1988).

    Of students to make an obscene speech at a school-sponsored event.
    Bethel School District #43 v. Fraser, 478 U.S. 675 (1986).

    Of students to advocate illegal drug use at a school-sponsored event.
    Morse v. Frederick, __ U.S. __ (2007).

    http://www.uscourts.gov/about-federal-courts/educational-resources/about-educational-outreach/activity-resources/what-does

    The First Amendment states, in relevant part, that:

    “Congress shall make no law…abridging freedom of speech.”

    It doesn’t say that the courts can’t define what free speech means.

    Then there are these limits to free speech.

    “The U.S. Supreme Court has recognized very few exceptions to the First Amendment,” says Robert Richards, founding director of the Pennsylvania Center for the First Amendment at Penn State, which was established in 1992 to promote awareness and understanding of the principles of free expression to the scholarly community, the media and the general public.

    “The categories of speech that fall outside of its protection are obscenity, child pornography, defamation, incitement to violence and true threats of violence,” he explains. “Even in those categories, there are tests that have to be met in order for the speech to be illegal. Beyond that, we are free to speak.”

    http://news.psu.edu/story/341896/2015/01/27/research/probing-question-are-there-limits-freedom-speech

    Repeated from the last paragraph above “incitement to violence and true threats of violence”

    I’d say the law already existed to protect those two young women from that nut case. But the law will not protect you from a violent act and/or crime at the time it happens unless there are armed police officers there at the time and they act to support the law. Sad to say but far too often, the law can only act after a crime has been committed and it is to late to protect or save the life of a victim.

    • seattleducation2010
      May 31, 2017

      When the man yelled at the two young women using foul and racist language and told them they don’t pay taxes and should “go home”, was that him practicing free speech?

      There IS a difference and I like the way Canadians have clearly defined hate speech as opposed to free speech. It’s time to do that here in the US.

      • Lloyd Lofthouse
        May 31, 2017

        I think I already answered your question when I wrote:

        “incitement to violence and true threats of violence”

        “I’d say the law already existed to protect those two young women from that nut case. But the law will not protect you from a violent act and/or crime at the time it happens unless there are armed police officers there at the time and they act to support the law. Sad to say but far too often, the law can only act after a crime has been committed, and it is too late to protect or save the life of a victim.”

        When that deranged, Facist Trumpist “yelled at the two young women using foul and racist language” that was an incitement fo violence and/or a true threat of violence.”

        In the interview with the one teenage girl who was a friend of the Muslim girl wearing the hijab, she said she was afraid for her life and if the men who were killed hadn’t intervened, she and her friend would be dead. It’s clear to me that the law already existed to protect these two young girls, but having a law doesn’t stop someone from breaking that law just like this fascist, racist, insane Trumpist did.

        Passing a new law also would not stop what that monster did. It’s illegal to rob banks but they are robbed all the time.

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This entry was posted on May 30, 2017 by in A Better Way, Racism, Resistance and tagged .
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