BBC BLOGS - Mark Mardell's America
« Previous | Main | Next »

Defending the First Amendment?

Mark Mardell | 20:40 UK time, Saturday, 27 March 2010

grab2_bbc226.jpgPhoenix, Arizona

The second Palin-McCain rally didn't go quite as smoothly as the first. Her speech was just about the same, word for word. She rather rushed the first half, then relaxed into a more captivating stride. There is little doubt she is an exciting, rousing speaker, telling the audience exactly what it wants to hear. But she doesn't seem so good at thinking on her feet.

During the speech a young man got to his feet and shouted something, obviously insulting. I couldn't hear what he said. But our TV pictures show clearly what happened next. At first those around him try to shout him down but don't touch him. Then he moves to leave, apparently of his own accord, and someone grabs his shoulders. He pulls away and points. Then he is grabbed around the throat from behind. He then disappears from view under a melee and reappears being held by two men and is marched from the hall still shouting.

John McCain winked at Todd Palin while all this was going on and Sarah Palin just stood and watched.


I suppose you can argue by a sort of domino effect of logic that the Vietnam War was a war to stop communism spreading, and if it had spread it would have threatened the American constitution. Then again, the Vietnam War was lost, and America still has a constitution.

It is more difficult to argue that the man shouting had been allowed to exercise his First Amendment right under the US constitution to freedom of speech.

I don't see any problem in protesters being hustled from a political rally. It happens in Britain, it happens everywhere. I was at a recent Obama rally at a university in Fairfax, Virginia, when an anti-abortion protester was taken from the hall by campus police.

But it does seem stretching it a bit to suggest that stopping someone speaking is allowing them to protest, or that standing up and shouting before being manhandled was what was meant by the First Amendment.


or register to comment.

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.