Freedom of speech or fostering hate?

Published: Aug. 9, 2021 at 8:34 PM CDT
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STURGIS, S.D. (KOTA) - At the Sturgis Rally it’s all about freedom and riding motorcycles.

Here, you’ll find both vendors and cyclists exercising their right to the first amendment, but what happens when exercising that right becomes offensive to some people?

Different symbols and flags like swastikas and confederate flags can be found around the rally at different vendors, but one vendor claims this is more about business and giving the cyclists what they want.

“A lot of bikers, you know, its freedom thing. A lot of bikers want to be free and voice their opinion and I like to cater to what they want. It doesn’t mean that I necessarily believe in everything but, you know, I like to please everybody,” said one vendor, Jenny Alonso.

Alonso said the history behind bikers and swastikas goes back to World War II when US soldiers would bring back Nazi memorabilia they won in the war to hang on their bikes.

“So, we’re kind of honoring that not necessarily that, you know, we believe in Nazis and Hitler, but it’s just kind of a special thing that the US military was able to go and win the war and bring things back as souvenirs and they would put them on their bike,” said Alonso.

Rabbi Jeffery Sirkman of Larchmont Temple in New York told KOTA News in a statement, “that is not freedom of speech. That is a direct result of the Nazi regime murdering 13 million people and it ultimately represents evil and hate.”

Another common symbol at the rally is the confederate flag, which many at the event say symbolizes their heritage and not violence.

“I do have a rebel flag tattoo, a confederate tattoo. It’s more about my heritage, not about my hate. I have no hate. I have a background with heritage and Indian and everything else and so honestly, I see it as no hate. I see it as just heritage and if you don’t know the heritage and just see it has hate then you were brought up wrong,” said Amber Williams, a vendor from Texas.

Pastor-Bishop Troy Carr of Faith Temple Church believes the confederate flag symbolized a time in our country where people were so adamant about keeping slavery that the nation was divided into war.

“That’s the history. The history of half the south in our country wanting to keep slavery and the other people who fought to not have slavery. So, that’s what that symbol means. It’s a symbol of hatred, a symbol of intolerance, a symbol of racism, it’s a symbol of misguidedness,” said Carr.

However, all 3 find a common ground with the idea of freedom of speech, but just with slightly different perceptions of the First Amendment.

“It’s total freedom of speech. I know I can’t make everybody happy. There’s always going to be somebody that gets upset with something that I have here. A majority of people are very accepting and are excited about what I see and that they can get those items here.” said Alonso.

“We live in a country where we are free to do what we ever want to do and believe whatever we want to believe and so, I would never advocate for vendors not being able to sell whatever people will buy and people buy whatever they are able to purchase, but with that then you have to know that there are groups of us; black people, people of color, Jews who find those symbols quite offensive,” said Carr.

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