Animal rights activists turned to social media and the internet to decry the “intimidation” and “harassment” of Camille Marino, founder of Negotiation is Over, by law enforcement officers in Florida. Early Tuesday morning, police arrived at her home in central Florida, executing a search warrant that apparently led to the seizure of items from her home (presumably computers, phones and other media that demonstrate her communications with other members of the animal rights extremist movement). This action stems from her willful violation of civil restraining orders that prohibit harassment of scientists (in Michigan and California) and her attempts to trespass on University of Florida property and to intimidate its research faculty and students.
For some time, Ms. Marino has been engaged in an effort to intimidate, harass and repress biomedical researchers across the country. Threats of dismemberment, gleeful descriptions of murder and pictures of researchers home, alongside names of family members and home addresses, have been published on her website. Outside a court in Michigan, she claims that her actions and blogging are “Constitutionally-protected speech”. What she fails to mention is that her own speech is all that matters to her. The voices of scientists who advocate on behalf of the humane and respectful nature of research are met with her threats. The opinions of those within her own group that speak out against her rabid speech, which sometimes encourages the targeting of young children of researchers, are met with condemnation and harassment. Apparently, she believes that the architects of the Constitution set out to protect her speech above all others. She is wrong, and the law enforcement actions being undertaken against her are the logical result of her virulent and criminal activities.
Freedom to speak is a fundamental right in our society; yet it comes with responsibility. That responsibility demands that the speaker not use his or her own words to incite others to violence or to mercilessly intimidate another. That responsibility requires that the speaker own up to the consequences of his or her speech when it crosses the line.
That is what is happening today in Florida. Ms. Marino has decided that social and legal standards for decent behavior don’t apply to her, and she is facing the consequences for that. None of us should have any pity for someone that hides behind the Constitution when intimidating others. When she says that Negotiation is Over, what she means is that all voices other than hers must be silenced. Negotiation must never be over. It can only be over when one individual, through feelings of zealotry and superiority, decides that their pure vision is more meaningful than that of all others and that they are right to punish those that disagree.
In this situation, Ms. Marino is not very different than the Reverend Fred Phelps who screamed “God hates fags” outside of Matthew Shepard’s funeral or Operation Rescue that seeks to squelch women’s right to choose. Ms. Marino and her followers are in good company with both. No doubt, we will hear very similar “1st amendment” defenses from all these extremist groups. In the end, let all us decent folk hope that the law ultimately repudiates the hateful, condemnable speech coming from the groups similarly.