Op-Ed: In response to the “Hatgate” controversy and backing Vitale’s convictions

Freedom of speech is a precious right allowed both within the UC institution and this country. As stated within UC Riverside’s  “Principles Guiding Speech and Assembly,” “UC Riverside is committed to the belief that free speech, expression, and peaceful and lawful assembly are rights that must be protected, valued, and encouraged.”

UCR should feel proud and united for its protection of and commitment to freedom of speech and sharing of ideas, especially considering recent incidents and developments even within the UC system — such as riots and banning of speakers at UC Berkeley or so-called “safe spaces” within UCLA.

Thus, the fact that people at UCR are now arguing over freedom of speech and correlating it with violence brings a worrisome feeling in my heart.

First of all, who really caused the violence here? Macias was the one that snatched Vitale’s hat and incited violence overall. She repeatedly declined to give back the hat, and even attacked UCR itself by claiming, “Y’all are allowing people to wear this?”

Secondly, do I have to remind one of the definition of “genocide?” Genocide means, “the deliberate killing of large groups of people, especially those of a particular ethnic group or nation.” I would love to hear Macias provide an example of any genocide that took place in America during the Trump administration. 1994 Rwanda or modern day Myanmar are countries in which actual genocide took place, arguably due to the lack of freedom of speech (Tutsi and Hutu minorities attempted to rebel against the Rwandan government, which led to the massacre of 1,070,014 Rwandans, a total of roughly 15 percent of the population).

Nobody who holds an unpopular opinion should be silenced just because the majority disagrees with them; the whole purpose of free speech is to maintain a balance within society and let all voices be heard. Furthermore, we are all bound to disagree one way or another. Are we really going to allow such an incident to poison such a beautiful right given to us? Is this really enough to bring down a right which the country has valued for centuries? By silencing unpopular opinions, our society inches closer to the dystopian world of Orwell’s “1984.”

Many people sacrificed their lives for the freedom of speech, and to free the US from the oppressive rule of the British monarchy. If we are to discuss anything about freedom of speech, it should be how we practice such a right. Is looting or burning cars truly a form of freedom of speech? Is wearing a hat of any sort any worse? Let us eschew from attacking freedom of speech in itself, and let’s rather discuss how it’s currently practiced and used.

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