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Rutgers Lecturer Forcibly Sent For Psych Evaluation By NYPD For Some Tweets About The Election

As you may have noticed, a lot of people have opinions on the election that just happened. And, many people are using social media to express those opinions, for good or for bad. Some people are excited, some people are angry. And no matter which side you fall on, you should recognize that expressing opinions on social media is protected (and should be encouraged as part of a healthy political process involving public discussion and debate). Kevin Allred, a lecturer at Rutgers University, is definitely on the side of folks who aren’t happy with the results of the election. And, like many, he’s been tweeting about his opinions on the matter. Having read through his Twitter feed, it doesn’t seem all that out of the ordinary from stuff that I’ve seen from others. In fact, I’d argue that it actually seems fairly tame.

Either way, last night he Tweeted that the NYPD had come to his house because the police at Rutgers believed he was “a threat” based on some of his tweets. There were two tweets in particular. One was about burning a flag in protest and the other was a rhetorical question about the 2nd Amendment.

To be clear: flag burning is perfectly legal and protected expression, as per the US Supreme Court. But here, Allred wasn’t even burning a flag. He was talking about burning a flag, which is, obviously, also protected expression. Ditto on the random rhetorical on the 2nd Amendment. No matter what you think of Allred’s position on the election, flag burning OR the 2nd Amendment, you should recognize that the 1st Amendment protects that expression. Update: It also appears that Allred deleted the original tweet on the second point which was certainly noticeably different than the way he describes it above. It wasn’t just a question in the nature stated, but rather a more direct question of what would happen when he went out and started to shoot white people. That’s still protected speech, but at least there’s slightly more of an explanation for why law enforcement wanted to go visit him. But it’s still not necessarily a reason to detain him.

The Rutgers police and NYPD apparently disagreed. They forced him to go to a psychiatric hospital to be evaluated.

Allred blames Trump for this — and while we’ve made it clear that we’ve got lots of concerns about Trump’s views on free speech, Trump isn’t exactly directing police to pick up people for various tweets. But the whole situation is extremely disturbing nonetheless. It’s frightening how little law enforcement seems to recognize or care about the First Amendment.

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