Obviously, not even having the slightest idea of the law, they even suggest the possibility that charges could have been leveled against the organizers!
They shelled out $10,000 for extra security to patrol the controversial event, which featured a speech by a Dutch politician who’s on al Qaida’s “hit list” and a contest for the best cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad. Local law enforcement was on the alert. A SWAT team and a bomb squad patrolled.
The two gunmen who opened fire with assault weapons outside the exhibit on Sunday were killed by a police officer. They have been identified by law enforcement as Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi, both of Phoenix. They appear, from social media posts, to have been motivated by a desire to become mujahedeen, or holy warriors.
The attack highlights the tensions between protecting Americans’ treasured right to freedom of expression and preserving public safety, and it raises questions about when – if ever – government should intervene.
There are two exceptions from the constitutional right to free speech – defamation and the doctrine of “fighting words” or “incitement,” said John Szmer, an associate professor of political science and a constitutional law expert at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
“Fighting words is the idea that you are saying something that is so offensive that it will lead to an immediate breach of the peace,” Szmer explained. “In other words, you are saying something and you should expect a violent reaction by other people.”
The exhibit of cartoons in Texas might have crossed the line, Szmer said.
“I don’t think it is unreasonable to expect what they were doing would incite a violent reaction,” he said.
Organizers knew, he said, that caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, which many Muslims consider insulting, have sparked violence before. In a recent case that drew worldwide attention, gunmen claiming allegiance with the self-described Islamic State killed 12 people in an attack on the Paris offices of the French magazine Charlie Hebdo, which was known for satirical depictions of the Prophet Muhammad.
On the other hand, “fighting words can contradict the basic values that underlie freedom of speech,” Szmer said. “The views being expressed at the conference could be seen as social commentary. Political and social speech should be protected. You are arguably talking about social commentary.”
It’s unlikely that the issue will be tested in the Garland case, however, because prosecutors in Texas almost certainly won’t press charges against the conference organizers, he said.