All Sections

Another View -- Bob Giuda: Freedom is stolen one step at a time

July 15. 2018 10:03PM

At a recent parade in Northfield, the county Republican committee pickup truck was adorned with the signs of candidates for public office. Shortly before the parade began, Debbie — the person in charge (not a town official) — approached and told us that “the rules” prohibited any national candidate signs in the parade, and that we’d have to take down a particular sign or we wouldn’t be allowed to march.

Trying to be agreeable, one of our group took down the sign as requested, and Debbie walked away. After thinking about the incident, I expressed my concerns, and we decided to put the sign back up.

A few minutes later, she came back and told us, pointedly, to take the sign down or we wouldn’t be allowed in the parade. I responded that the sign was staying, and we were marching with it. Her attempt to impose her personal bias against the candidate named on the sign would infringe on our right to freedom of expression.

Because public funds were used in part to pay for the parade, and because it was held on public roads, I believe displaying the candidate sign was protected free speech under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. We don’t have “free speech zones” in this country, and freedom of expression in public venues is not subject to anyone’s personal political preferences.

The battle to protect freedom isn’t only fought in faraway places by men and women in uniform. It’s fought every single day in towns and cities all across our nation, in situations like this parade. This includes the town of Gilmanton’s attempt to prevent residents from displaying signs supporting the police chief. It includes a Gilford parent being arrested at a school board meeting. And it includes many other instances where individuals in authority attempt to impose personal preferences at the expense of the rule of law.

When local political activists — elected, unelected, paid, or volunteer — cross the line and infringe on the rights for which millions have given their lives, it’s up to each of us to stand firm in challenging them. Otherwise, we surrender our rights to the political preferences of those in charge. We become subjects instead of citizens.

Interestingly enough, one of the marching Democrats was wearing a T-shirt supporting a national level candidate. Had Debbie issued a similar ultimatum to the Democrats, I would have done exactly the same thing. Why? Because this issue transcends political partisanship. Such abuses, however small, infringe on our right to express an opinion without fear of reprisal by those in power.

As a veteran, a citizen, a grandfather, and a state senator, restricting freedom of expression is something I will never abide. Each of us must stand firm in protecting our right to be heard without fear of retaliation, whether the “powers that be” agree with it or not. Because without the right to respectfully disagree with those in authority, freedom will die.

Sen. Bob Giuda, R-Warren, represents District 2.

Guest Commentary