Freedom of speech protects the controversial, the offensive, the downright infuriating. Sometimes free speech makes a person mad enough to throw a punch.
Many people might consider large placards of aborted fetuses being displayed at a Santa Claus parade all of the above. Nevertheless, it qualifies as free speech, and the Granite City Council is wrong to prohibit it. Granite City is the location of the Hope Clinic, where abortions regularly are performed - as are anti-abortion protests.
The council recently enacted an ordinance banning signs larger than 8.5 inches by 11 inches within 25 feet of the city's four annual parades.
Protesters demonstrate in public places so that their message can be seen by the largest number of people; nothing is more public than a parade. Limiting signs to the size of a letter muffles the protesters, which is just what the council has in mind.
By that logic, every Southern sheriff could have banned civil rights marches in the 1960s. If we allow speech to be limited because of the threat of violence, there would be plenty of threats and little freedom.
It seems clear that the council imposed the new restrictions because some Granite City citizens were offended by the protesters' graphic pictures. If they had been holding big signs saying, "We love our city council," there wouldn't be a problem.
As repulsive as the pictures are, they convey an unmistakable political message. In that, they are the essence of free speech.
The problem with trying to limit speech is that those in power would decide what offends, challenges or disgusts them. Today, those in power may be offended by graphic anti-abortion protesters. Tomorrow, it could be anti-war protesters. Someday, it could be people who oppose the party in power. It's the road to tyranny.
Abortion protesters have a right to peacefully make their point in public, even in a manner that some find disturbing.