Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Nebraska Police Arrest Fred Phelps' Daughter

To give Fred Phelps and clan a shred of attention feeds exactly into their twisted ideology and antics. The Associated Press, however, reported Bellevue, Nebraska, police arrested Shirley Phelps-Roper outside a protest of a soldier's funeral yesterday because her 10-year-old son trampled the American flag. Phelps-Roper is a lawyer. She and her family clearly know how to use the legal system to defend the right to propagate their homophobic hate speech across the country. They also know how to stage good photo-ops and to generate good sound bites for reporters. Her arrest, however, marks the first time authorities have arrested a member of the Phelps family during their protests. The charge stems from a 1977 Nebraska statute against desecration of the flag. The symbolism of the arrest marks a long overdue rebuke to their hate. Activists -- and any descent American for that matter -- will obviously continue to drown out their dribble at every turn. But the Bellevue, Nebraska, police succeeded to silence Phelps-Roper for at least one day to the applause of almost everyone.

2 comments:

Drayton Hiers said...

It's hard to see this as a victory (or even meaningful) in any real sense; if anything, it's a blow to activists and demonstrators. Phelps and his crew may be hate mongers, but they are hate mongers working in the same system that allows people to be, for example, acceptance mongers, or diversity mongers, and Phelps-Roper's arrest comes from an action that many would regard as an action of free speech: flag trampling (actually, she was arrested on "suspicion of contributing to the delinquency of a minor"). Phelps-Roper is saying that it was her right to allow her son to stand on the flag at the funeral, and, on this point, and as an activist, it is always troubling when the police use anachronistic, patriotic, arguably regressive technicalities to silence unpopular speech, whether it be protesting at the funeral of a soldier or marching for equal rights for gays and lesbians (an act that is as distasteful to many Americans as trampling the flag or upsetting grieving parents).

This whole Phelps saga is a mess and a disgrace, but we don't win when Phelps et al are forcefully silenced, we win when people stop listening.

Mike said...

I certainly understand your argument. The bigger question with regards to the Phelps' family remains whether society-at-large will continue to allow those who spout hate speech to continue their antics unchallenged. Freedom of speech remains a vitally important part of the American definition of democracy as defined in the Constitution. I reaffirm, however, the belief most activists and those familiar with their crusade would welcome Phelps-Roper's arrest as a tangible challenge to her family's hate speech.