Opinion: Free speech: Should some things be left unsaid?

By Raymond Nava

City council meetings are perhaps the best form of interacting with the government. 

Unlike the United States Congress or state legislature, city councils give people direct access to those who represent them in the city. Nothing should be off limits when speaking at a city council meeting. 

City councils will regularly hold meetings open to the public to the public. During these open meetings they can get input from people on legislation and city issues. Sometimes, these can result in viral videos of citizens who are addressing the council losing their absolute minds and going on crazy rants. 

Take the COVID-19 pandemic for example. Citizens would speak out against health measures designed to stop the spread of the virus. 

So, should there be anything off-limits at these meetings.

Nothing should be off limits at a city council meeting as long as it’s discussed appropriately. There will be times where things may go too far. There have been many cases of citizens even threatening members of the council.

On April 10, activist Riddhi Patel was arrested after making threatening remarks to members of the Bakersfield city council. 

“We’ll see you at your house, we’ll murder you,” Patel Said. This was in response to claims she made accusing the council of targeting her and others with metal detectors.

Making direct physical threats of course is never acceptable. All threats do is make the cause being fought for look bad and cause legal issues. 

That’s not to say political threats can’t be made. Threats of working to oust a council member at the next election due to displeasure are always acceptable comments to make at council meetings. 

How you speak at a council meeting is also important. Ranting and raving doesn’t help an argument. 

Speaking calmly, no matter what the topic is, will go a long way in making your point seem reasonable. Because these meetings are recorded and become public, speaking calmly can can influence others to agree with a different perspective.

Nothing should ever be off limits at city council meetings. No matter how outlandish perspectives may be, they can be effectively communicated in a calm and reasonable demeanor. 

Physical threats are also never acceptable and do nothing but hurt a cause. City councils are a cornerstone of local democracy and free speech at these meetings is what makes democracy great.

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