Portland arts venue protest highlights free speech conundrum

Protesters target venue after Portland arts organization announces it will host controversial speaker Jordan Peterson.


They are going after the wrong people.

Portland’5 Center for the Arts, the organization in question, cannot legally bar Peterson from speaking, says executive director Robyn Williams. “We could have the most hate-filled, horrible entity in the world book our buildings,” she says, “and we’re legally required to let them in.”

In the eyes of some Portlanders, “hate-filled” is an apt descriptor for Peterson. The Canadian academic was the subject of a recent New York Times profile, in which he advocated for “enforced monogamy,” and said “the masculine spirit is under assault” from feminism and the #MeToo movement.  

DrPeterson 438x400

Yet public venues can’t turn away presenters for the content of their talk.

The Center for the Arts operates five venues that are owned and managed by the city of Portland and Metro’s Exposition Recreation Commission. As taxpayer funded entitites, they must offer open dates to all takers, be it the Oregon Symphony or Jordan Peterson.

Peterson is slated to talk at the Keller Auditorium, one of the venues.

“You really don’t want elected officials picking and choosing who gets a venue based on their political views,” says Metro spokesman Jim Middaugh.

Think of public venues like newspapers, protected by a constitutional right to free speech. Both act as vessels for competing opinions. Newspapers have limited word counts; venues have limited calendar days.

But the goal (in theory anyway), is to ensure opposing ideas get equal space, as long as nobody makes direct threats or shouts “fire” in a crowded theater.

Oregon free speech protections go further than the federal government's. According to Section 8 of the State Constitution, “no law shall be passed” to restrict speech “on any subject whatsoever.”

Event promoter Live Nation might be a more appropriate target for the Peterson protests. The Beverly Hills-based company booked Peterson at Keller Auditorium — and will profit from the $35 to $200 tickets.

Or protestors can go after Peterson himself. The same clause that protects a speaker’s speech protects protesters’ rights to give them hell about it.

Middaugh says Metro provides space outside its venues for just that purpose — peaceful, but spirited, demonstrations against events.

Expect to see a few of those come June 25.


 Click here to subscribe to Oregon Business.

 

 

 

Caleb Diehl

Caleb Diehl is a reporter at Oregon Business

5 comments

  • Dino William Ramzi
    Dino William Ramzi Tuesday, 26 June 2018 12:10 Comment Link

    So apparently 5 people showed yelling stupid slogans, indicating they have no idea what Jordan Peterson or David Rubin actually say.

    Now I am embarrassed that I didn't go because I was expecting the police not to reign in Antifa.

  • Ozzy Sun
    Ozzy Sun Wednesday, 13 June 2018 02:10 Comment Link

    And here we go again! Another lazy journalist quoting from that ridiculous NYT article which was full of misquotes, things taken out of context, and just plain wrong information.

    Where is some accountability for the press? WHERE? This goes beyond Jordan Peterson. This is about warped ideas that start with an entity as influential as the NYT and then it's hard to stop or correct because they get locked into public consciousness as other journalists pull quotes from the almighty and woefully wrong NYT.

    Every day I'm more and more convinced that the media are doing way more harm to us than any politician or corporate lobbyist. And there's no accountability. NONE. But the consequences are all too real.

  • Cody Benson
    Cody Benson Wednesday, 06 June 2018 12:09 Comment Link

    I will be there and no amount of protesters or lies spread by said protesters will stop me from going. I already got my ticket.

  • Jeff
    Jeff Tuesday, 05 June 2018 05:28 Comment Link

    Let me help you guys so you don't look so ridiculous.

    Venue books best selling author, clinical psychologist and professor Dr. Jordan Peterson. Peterson is selling out venues all over the USA and Europe promoting his new self help book.

    Some oppose his point of view which levels criticism of feminism and identity politics. Others find his point of view empowering.

  • UnknownRebel
    UnknownRebel Monday, 04 June 2018 22:08 Comment Link

    This will surely be a riot

Leave a comment

Make sure you enter all the required information, indicated by an asterisk (*). HTML code is not allowed.