The freedom to speak

Conservative speaker Lucian Wintrich clearly should not have done what he did when protesters disrupted a speech he was trying to present Tuesday night at the University of Connecticut. To judge by a video showing the altercation, police were right to charge Wintrich with breach of the peace.

But there is more to the story.

Wintrich was attempting to deliver a speech titled, “It’s OK to be White.” Protesters already had disrupted the event with chants and boos.

Then a woman and man walked up to the podium Wintrich was using. The woman grabbed papers, probably notes for the speech, and retreated up an aisle. Wintrich followed, then grabbed her in what appeared to be an attempt to retrieve the papers. A brief altercation broke out and was stopped by police, who led Wintrich away and arrested him.

Also arrested was a student who broke a window in the building where Wintrich tried to speak. At this writing, no one had been arrested for setting off a smoke bomb in the building.

Nor had the woman who stole Wintrich’s papers, clearly provoking the confrontation, been charged.

University President Susan Herbst blamed “offensive remarks” by Wintrich and said he “appeared to grab an audience member …” She did not mention the woman who brought Wintrich’s speech to a halt.

Yes, Wintrich was wrong. But so were those who refused to allow him the freedom to speak. So was the woman who clearly was the aggressor in this case.

Herbst and others at the university insist they stand for freedom of speech for everyone.

But do they, really?