We'll begin this week with Sarah Willets's January 1 piece about a proposal by Durham County Sheriff Mike Andrews to curtail spontaneous protests on county property. JoeJoey responds succinctly: "How do we fire the sheriff and get one that is in sync with the U.S. Constitution and the people of Durham?"
In a more expansive take, Bernard Baruch (presumably not the late financier and statesman) argued that new laws are unnecessary. "The right of the people peaceably to assemble is guaranteed by the First Amendment. Violent behavior or posing a threat to others (by intent or perceived) are crimes. That a gathering is impromptu or has fifty rather than forty-nine participants has no bearing as long as the demonstration remains peaceful. The sheriff is charged with keeping the peace, not preventing peaceful public assembly. The sheriff already has what he needs; additional ordinances to grant him the authority to prohibit public assembly are not needed and indeed may be deemed unconstitutional."
"So, what happens when Duke wins a national championship and a crowd of fifty-one fans spill out of their downtown beer joints and engage in 'a public display of sentiment for or against a person or cause'?" wonders Taylor Jarnagin. "Will the sheriff then start arresting folks for disturbing the peace? I do not like the idea of the sheriff having the authority to pass such judgments. Crimes against persons or property are crimes and should be acted against, whether or not a proper permit to display sentiment has been granted within the specified time period."
Brandy Lee offers a vigorous counternarrative: "You are also supposed to obtain a permit to legally and peacefully protest, which is where many of these groups fall short. It usually ends up that the ones with the supposedly best intentions, as they say, don't bother to get their permits. The people want to blame the sheriff for not doing this job, when the fact is they're way off base. The sheriff is willing to do his job, but the DA's office is not willing to do their job, and they're not willing to back up the Sheriff's Office, even when they say they will."
A few weeks ago, Willets wrote about UNC's new "free speech policy," which enumerates various disciplinary actions, including expulsion, for students who disrupt the functioning of UNC administration or interfere with others' free-speech rights.
Commenter larryofcary argues that the policy coheres to the spirit of academia. "Only by confronting and fairly debating what one considers incorrect/untrue/evil/misleading does one become stronger in their own truth—or perhaps occasionally shift their views a bit. Avoiding these debates and confrontations with extremists that many universities are doing only makes the students weak, naive robots with no ability to think and argue for themselves. You need to see, debate, and meet actual people with differing views to be truly educated."
In matters musical, Ed Kinkade found that the INDY's end-of-year wrap-up of favorite local records lacked jazz: "While I accept that your publication appears to be biased toward alternative and indie music, there is a burgeoning jazz scene that has received precious little coverage. Al Strong, who is one of the premier jazz performers in the area, released a CD this year and certainly would have warranted coverage. There are at least three major clubs in Raleigh alone that host jazz performances exclusively: C. Grace, Circa 1888, and Watts & Ward, with more planning to do so. In October, C. Grace hosted a hurricane relief concert, which netted over $6,000 for the evening. There was no mention of this in your publication."
Finally, last week's Soapboxer column, which urged readers to "throw the bums out and keep the damn republic," drew this response from R Williams, who urgently prescribes a chill pill: "Saw your maniacal opinion in the recent INDY," he writes. "Take a deep breath, regain composure and perspective. You are going a little overboard, my friend."