Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump will speak at the Tsongas Center on Monday, Jan. 4. (Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore)
When the news broke that Republican Presidential frontrunner Donald Trump was in the works to organize at rally at the Tsongas Center in Lowell, it was greeted with much controversy and debate. A great deal of it came via an online petition to not have Trump come to Lowell, one that drew over 2000 signatures in its first four days. That has drawn the ire of many individuals claiming that not letting Trump have his event would be in violation of the First Amendment and the freedom of speech it provides. But would it?
To start things off, let’s address a few key points. Like all of us in this nation, Donald Trump has the right to speak his mind and say whatever he wants to say. People have the right to support Trump and if they want him to come to Lowell, they should not be looked down upon for desiring such. But just because the First Amendment gives Trump the right to speak his mind, does not mean everyone is obliged to give him a platform to promote his ideas. The Tsongas Center and people of Lowell are under no obligation to house his rallies: If they want to, they can; if they don’t, they can refuse. That is NOT a violation of freedom of speech and that is not censorship. Trump is free to travel through the Lowell community and spread his opinions in whatever ways he can, which includes looking for locations to organize his rallies. It is just that not every place he requests is constitutionally mandated to host it. No one, no matter how famous or important, is entitled to have a venue or organization host a special event for them just so they can exercise their freedom of speech.
As students of UMass Lowell, we also have every right to say that we don’t want Trump coming here, just as students have every right to say that they do want Trump coming here. That is us both exercising free speech. However, it is not our decision to make. The powers at be at the Tsongas Center will decide if this is something they want and yes, they are allowed to decide. Freedom of speech doesn’t force them into hosting the event; they could easily look at the controversial remarks Trump has made during his campaign, along with the petition and the negative feedback his potential appearance has gotten from the Lowell community and tell him “thanks, but no thanks.” That would NOT be in violation of anybody’s rights. Just as easily, the powers at be could say yes, which it seems like they have at the time of this story. If he does end up coming to Lowell, it won’t be the end of the world. And if the Tsongas had said no or the petition works it won’t be either.
Point is, a private venue is not forced by the Constitution to host a rally for Trump and it is not censorship if students at a University are opposed to a man, who has said some pretty inflammatory things to say at least, using school facilities to further his agenda.
Again, the First Amendment grants Trump the right to speak his mind and we shouldn’t try to censor him, no matter how much we may disagree. That does not however, make us bound to aiding him in getting his thoughts out there. A popular quote that outlines freedom of speech is “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” Perhaps to aid in clarification for this controversy, the quote should be rephrased to “I do not agree with what you have to say, and though I’ll defend to the death your right to say it, under no means am I obliged to help you say it.”