We the People: Tempering the right of free speech with consideration and respect

In Portland, Oregon, a valiant World War II veteran was scheduled to receive a special honor at a town hall meeting but the ceremony was disrupted when more than 100 protesters began to shout: “hands‑up, don’t shoot!” and “I can’t breathe!”

The protesters refused to stop even when the 100‑year‑old U.S. Navy veteran, Dario Raschio, called on them to “show a little respect for this occasion.” He was there to receive medals from Senator Ron Wyden (D‑OR) and he made a brief speech and left the ceremony early.

Wyden told the protestors, “One of the reasons that we can come here today and be heard and express our views is because of veterans like Dario.”

Raschio — who could not be stopped by Japanese fighters in World War II — was thwarted by his fellow citizens who did not give him the respect he earned from his sacrifices for our country. He received the Asian Pacific Campaign Medal as well as other honors.

The right to protest and the right to free speech should be exercised but it should be exercised with consideration for others and with a goal of marshaling support and unifying opinion about an idea.

NYPD officers for a second time turned their backs on Mayor Bill de Blasio. At the funeral for slain Police Officer Wenjian Liu, murdered in an ambush along with his partner, Police Officer Rafael Ramos, NYPD officers took the opportunity to express their outrage with the perception that Mayor de Blasio does not respect the NYPD.

When the mayor delivered a eulogy, thousands of police officers turned their backs to him. It occurred even though the mayor met with police union leaders and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton sent a memo asking officers not to turn their backs on the mayor at the funeral.

Many people believe that an apology from the mayor would help turn around the perception that the mayor is against law enforcement or against law enforcement officers. The mayor of New York City has to be big enough to reach out and begin to repair his relationship with the NYPD. If he can start a dialogue, then he is on a road that will keep all New Yorkers safe. The meeting did not resolve any issues, according to PBA President Patrick Lynch.

Lynch stated that there were a number of discussions but no resolutions and “our thought… is that actions speak louder than words, and time will tell.”

The people do not have time for this sort of dispute. Every day it festers will make it more difficult to resolve. The time for police officers to use the funerals of slain comrades should be over and the time for other protestors to use special occasions should be over as well.

New York lost a bright light and a dedicated public servant with the passing of former Governor Mario Cuomo on New Year’s Day. The father of Governor Andrew Cuomo passed away on the day his son was sworn into office for a second term. Mario Cuomo was a tough, smart and compassionate man who made us proud to be a New Yorker. He will be missed.


Congressmember Michael Grimm has resigned from Congress after his guilty plea to tax evasion. The mistakes he made while running a restaurant that led to the conviction will likely be forgotten in time but the honorable and sensible decision to resign without a lengthy administrative battle should be remembered.

The people of Staten Island and Brooklyn will have another chance to fill that seat. The party officials of the two counties will select candidates and there will be a special election.  D.A. Dan Donovan of Staten Island has secured the backing of the Richmond County GOP chairperson while Assemblymember Michael Cusick is looking for the nod from the Democrats.

Hopefully it will be a short and clean campaign and whoever is given the honor of representing us in Congress will be able to help in a small way to engender some bipartisan cooperation and collegiality in Washington D.C. It is sorely needed.

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