One day in the late 1970s, when I was growing up in Cincinnati, my Dad took me downtown to see American Nazis’ rallying on Fountain Square, the center of the city. In a corner of the plaza just northeast of the fountain, a group of maybe ten unimpressive, mostly unkempt, white guys were rallying for white supremacy and against Jews and blacks. There were more spectators than there were protesters. Indeed, there may have been more cops, standing shoulder to shoulder in a cordon around the protesters, protecting them from the crowd.
My Dad, an amateur photographer, took a few pictures of the event. One of them showed the stern face of a black policeman, probably in his early 30s or so, with an angry-looking white guy behind him, holding up a sign which read “White Power.” My Dad mounted the picture and titled it “First Amendment.”
Later, as I learned more about Cincinnati’s history, I realized in his childhood, that man probably didn’t think he could be a cop when he grew up. At the time, there were very few black policemen. And there he was protecting the freedom of some kook to rally for white power. Some kook who would surely want to deny that man his freedom to choose a career in law enforcement.
Every time I think of that day–and my Dad’s photograph–I have this wonderful feeling about our great nation; his picture said so much about one of the many things which makes us great. As I studied history and current events in the years following that rally, I learned how, in many countries, even regrettably sometimes in our own, the police did not protect the right of citizens to protest, but rather arrested those who spoke out against the government.