It happened in Berkeley. Will it happen in Auburn?

The Los Angeles Times reports that a so-called free speech rally in northern California over the weekend spiraled out of control in part because many of the people there wanted confrontation.

The combatants on both sides were extremists who traveled from far and wide to make Berkeley their stage. Many freely admitted they were there to make trouble and that peaceful protest over President Trump and other issues really wasn’t their goal.

What happened in Berkeley should serve as a reminder to many people that free speech often is interpreted by hooligans and other people of ill-will to mean “I can do whatever the he** I want.”

Consider what neo-Nazi advocate Richard Spencer is saying. He told The Plainsman that Auburn University leaders will “rue the day” they chose to cancel a speech he was scheduled to make on the campus tonight.

“They think they have shut this down but they haven’t,” Spencer said. “I will give a speech on their campus. It is a public place. I think Auburn University is naive and has totally misunderstood who I am if they think that I am going to politely back out of this. I will be there 100 percent.”

Spencer’s defense for showing up?

“This is going to be a huge challenge to see whether we have free speech in the United States or whether we don’t.”

Oh, we have free speech in this country. And Spencer can spread whatever vile language and hate he wishes because of it. But denying him a stage doesn’t mean his free speech rights are being trampled upon; rather it means that a community’s safety is a legitimate mitigating factor in who is allowed to say what, and where.

Cancelling his address was the right thing to do. Let’s hope Spencer is mature enough — and his followers calm enough — to understand that when they are in Auburn.

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