In the midst of the protests about the Ferguson grand jury decision, Boston.com came out with an article titled, “When it Comes to #Ferguson, Lots of People Think Their Commute Trumps Free Speech.” Protesters around the country decided, among other things, to block highways. Protesters in Boston, for example, led by the organization Black Lives Matter, blocked the Mass Ave. connector, and police decided to shut down access to the Mass Pike and I-93. Understandably, many people were upset about this. Contrary to what the article and its title suggest, I think these people have a point. The question is not whether commuting trumps free speech, but whether the right of people to use a road trumps the “right” of other people to physically block the road so that no one can use it. In my opinion, it does. Yes, everyone has the right to free speech, but blocking a road goes beyond speech and interferes with the rights of others. No matter what you think about the events in Ferguson and the grand jury’s decision, it’s not okay to express your opinion in a way that harms innocent people. It is not okay to destroy cars, buildings, or property as some protesters have done, nor is it okay to violate people’s right to travel on public roads.
Another thing that’s important to remember about the Ferguson case: contrary to what so many people seem to think, we shouldn’t make it about race. Everyone should agree that it’s wrong for cops to kill innocent people, regardless of the race of the people involved. Police brutality can happen with white cops and black victims, with black cops and white victims, or any combination of races. I don’t have enough information to know for sure whether Officer Darren Wilson’s shooting of Michael Brown was self-defense, murder, or something in between. We shouldn’t jump to conclusions about what happened based on the fact that the cop is white and the young man who died was black. Instead of “Black Lives Matter,” why not “All Lives Matter”? Why not hold protests and demonstrations about police brutality and civil rights in general? Instead of limiting outrage to one race, why not fight for freedom for everyone?