On Wednesday, June 21, the Wisconsin State Assembly passed an anti-heckling law with a vote of 61-35 and zero Democratic votes. Proposed by Assembly Republicans, the law will crack down on heckling and protests against speakers on Wisconsin campuses, threatening those who resist such speakers with harsh punishments like expulsion.
Although the bill claims to protect free speech, it actually infringes on it. Of course, if there is someone in the crowd that is attempting to violently or permanently silence a speaker from getting his or her word out, security personnel should be allowed to intervene to allow the speaker to convey his or her message. But shouts, chants, rallies, and boos that allow the speaker to speak but also make it clear that his or her message will be countered with resistance should not only be permitted, but encouraged. Verbal disagreement is vital to having an open discussion and a functioning democracy in general, and it's only fair that dissenting opinions have a voice too - not just the dominant narrative.
Of course, speakers should have the right to have their voice heard on campus. But protesters should have the same First Amendment right to resist. People with conservative opinions should be allowed to speak, but dissidents should have the same right to oppose and resist their arguments. The heckling bill fails to make this vital distinction, and that’s what makes it a disastrous piece of legislation.