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Published: Tuesday, 11/11/2003

Free speech fracas fills up mailbox

It s not every day we see city councilmen speaking out against the Patriot Act, thrown out of Toledo City Hall under police escort. No surprise, then, that a column about Councilmen Pete Gerken and Frank Szollosi drew such spirited reader response.

A sample, edited for space and/or clarity:

From Lawrence P. Batton: Wow! As a conservative we have finally found common ground ... You are 100 percent correct!

I now would like to see you ... start addressing the violation of the 4th Amendment of the Constitution ... [and] I think we should quickly examine the 2nd Amendment. ... Well, at least we agree on one thing, eh?

Thanks for writing. I think. (I am exhausted from editing your impassioned opus.) In the future, can we just take it one amendment at a time?

From Dean Scott: Excellent article [on] free speech. It s the majority opinion.

Sir, I admire your wisdom as much as your brevity.

From Terry Sommers: What did the other side say? I m sure the situation is not as simple as you say. You didn t even take the trouble to get a no comment. There [are] always two sides to a story. Of course, if you were fair you wouldn t be able to bash the vast, right-wing conspiracy. Is it laziness or bias?

For details on what “the other side said, you should have read the news account on the same page. See, I write COLUMNS, not NEWS STORIES. How could you not know the difference? Is it laziness or bias?

From Jim Bedee: Your article about the ... councilmen being escorted off the premises brings up the subject I ve been concerned about, and I m one of those conservatives mentioned. Being removed from a public building for what they were doing is clearly a constitutional violation of free assembly.

But the issue I seem to have perhaps more concern about is the word “they when referring to those who “done the removing. Who are “they ? Those mysterious “theys are who I m concerned about; those faceless “theys who seem to move quietly throughout our society and make groundless accusations ...

Perhaps of even more concern is that we citizens allow it to happen by abdicating our free speech. ... Too many times I hear people say, Well, what can you do? “They have the media ... that legitimizes that kind of activity by not being vigilant enough to question quackery and ignorance, not to mention outright lies to foster an illegitimate agenda.

Huh?

From Ramona Henn: I was disturbed to read of the expulsion of [the] councilmen ..., and couldn t help but feel ... our right of free speech was being violated. I had the opportunity to hear a song [“Ashcroft s Army ]... that says it so well, by folksinger John McCutcheon. When he sang this satirical song ... in front of a crowd of thousands, he received a standing ovation. Please know that you are not alone in your pursuit of our rights.

You know, I heard John McCutcheon sing that wonderful song in Lakeside, Ohio, this summer, to much applause. No room here for the lyrics, but they re available (as is a free MP3 download) on his Web site, www.folkmusic.com.



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