Friday, June 10, 2011

Vicki McKenna wants zombie protesters silenced

Talk-show host encourages suppression of zombie speech rights

When zombie protesters came to the Capitol earlier this week, they took a lot of heat from people believing that their actions interfered with an event taking place there.

Gov. Walker was speaking to a group of Special Olympians when the zombies (students from the United Council) decided to stage a silent protest. (Sidenote: though the zombies were from the UC, the UC was actually trying to stage an event inside the Capitol; the protest before the Special Olympics event was the result of "rogue zombies.") They stood before the governor, their backs to his face, without uttering a single word while he spoke (not even a grunt). Afterwards, the zombies even shook the hands of the Olympians when they left.

Some on the right believed that their protest crossed a line -- it was a non-partisan event, after all, that the governor had participated in, honoring those with special needs and the accomplishments they had performed. Others supported the protest as a sign of grave importance -- the governor was advocating a budget that would cut many vital services for the very Olympians that were now in his midst. The irony of his support of these athletes during a photo op shouldn’t have been lost on anyone.

Both points of view make sense, and I certainly understand both the importance of the protests as well as the respect of those who aren’t involved in them one way or the other. Arguments could be made for both sides, which is why when the event occurred (I was actually at the Capitol that day) I didn’t take a position on the issue. Frankly, I empathize with both sides.

One thing that should be noted was that these protesters, even if engaging in a questionable demonstration, were respectful. Even the coordinators of the event honoring the Special Olympians went on record saying that the student zombies didn’t detract much from the athletes, that they were there protesting the governor but respecting the importance of the event they were attending as well.
"We were all a little bit on edge, but it turned out for the best," [spokeswoman for the Special Olympics Rachel] Grant said. "Nothing was disruptive at all."

Kelly Kloepping, another Special Olympics official, said the protesters were respectful and did not diminish the excitement the Special Olympians felt about being in Madison to meet Walker and other leaders.

"We feel it's really about the athletes," Kloepping said. "We knew the protesters were there, but they were respectful of our athletes."
Which is why it’s incredibly disheartening to hear someone like local talk show host Vicki McKenna advocate for violence against said protesters.

H/T to Sly in the Morning:
[These protesters were] so soulless and filthy and immorral, that honestly, I mean, if somebody would have piled on them and started throwing punches...I would have looked at that and said ‘Dirtbags deserved it.'
Vicki McKenna isn’t exactly a classy lady. She has definitely made a name for herself by being outspoken. But this is low even for her own standards.

First things first: the zombie protesters have the right to protest any public event, especially one at the grounds of the Capitol. Whether their actions were tasteless or not is irrelevant (though obviously worth debating): Gov. Walker still deserves to face his constituents wherever he goes, whether that’s support or dissent. It’s a First Amendment protection guaranteed to all citizens of this country that, so long as their speech doesn’t interfere with the rights of others, their rights are protected.

But what McKenna said on the air was appalling. She actually encourages a suppression of the right to free speech, would like for others to “pile on” these zombies and start “throwing punches.”

Our society is one celebrated for its openness, believed to be great the world over because of its protection of rights, including those of speech. To have someone like McKenna suggest that some forms of speech should be shut out, even if they’re not appreciated by most, shows definitively her own disrespect for the rights guaranteed to all, notions that have been protected since the early years of our nation’s history.

When we ignore these rights, even in zombie protests, we ignore the very foundation of our country. McKenna is welcome to be critical of the protesters -- as I said before, there certainly is a case to make that their actions were inappropriate -- but she’s wrong to advocate or encourage violent means to suppress their speech rights.

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