In the wake of the G20 summit and the police reaction, Rod Breakenridge writes in the Calgary Herald how conservatives, who usually are skeptical of state power, are very often supporters of the police. (See, for example, Michael Taube’s column in the Toronto Star today.) It certainly is curious. Breakenridge notes that all too often the possibility of violence or the use of violence by some fringe element in the past, is used by the powers that be as a pretense to severely restrict the peaceful expression of particular views.
The violent or otherwise illegal actions of a few should not be an excuse to infringe on the freedoms of everyone else.
There have been, for instance, elements of the pro-life movement who have committed vandalism or threatened — and even committed — acts of violence. That should not give the state licence to restrict the freedoms of law-abiding pro-lifers.
Yet it so often does.
Just ask Linda Gibbons, the peaceful pro-life grandmother who has spent the last 500 days — and approximately half of the last 15 years — in prison. Her “crime” is having protested within 20 metres of a Toronto abortion clinic. Her “protest” involves asking women approaching the clinic if they wish to talk to someone. Those who say no are left alone.
It has been years since there has been vandalism or threats against abortion facilities. The violence perpetrated against abortionists are often the work of lone individuals with no ties to mainstream pro-life groups. And in Ontario, the “temporary” injunction that Gibbons is charged with violating (technically she is charged with refusing to obey an officer) was granted in 1994.
Breakenridge notes that it isn’t just pro-lifers:
The list can and does go on and on: a gay teenager was assaulted, so no criticism of “the gay agenda” must be published anywhere. Some mosque’s window somewhere was broken, so let’s make it illegal to draw cartoons of Mohammed. Some gangbangers shot it out last night, so let’s ban handguns.
The balance between safety or security and liberty is not a simple one to figure out, but clearly society has swung too far in favour of security and away from liberty.