NBC12 VIEWPOINT: First Amendment Rights

By: Kym Grinnage email

Recently our NBC12 Facebook page erupted in debate, like never before -  when a former decorated marine was detained by the FBI and Chesterfield Police because of his anti-government rants on Facebook.

Cellphone video of government agents hauling Brandon Raub away in cuffs went viral - and sparked outrage over the violation of his First Amendment rights. Raub was never arrested or charged with a crime.

On his Facebook page, with rifle in hand, Raub rails against the government. In one post, he writes, "The revolution will come for me. Men will be at my door soon to pick me up to lead it."

Another reads, "Sharpen up my axe, I'm here to sever heads."

Police - acting under a state law that allows temporary psychiatric commitments - took Raub to John Randolph Medical Center, and they did it after receiving complaints about his erratic behavior from his own friends.

Still, his supporters protested outside the hospital - who claimed the veteran was harmless.

The question is, did the Chesterfield police do the right thing?

The answer is simple for some, but not for everybody. The First Amendment protects freedom of speech, but it's not a shield to keep police from investigating complaints about threatening behavior.

Here in Virginia, we revamped state laws dealing with mental health, and reporting "odd behavior," after warning signs were ignored in the months leading up to the Virginia Tech shootings.

So, go ahead, say what you want on social media. No one is advocating that police trample on your First Amendment rights. But - words have consequences, and if your words suggest an imminent threat to you - or the community -  don't be surprised if there's a knock and when you say, "Who is it?" the answer is.....the police.

Copyright 2012 WWBT NBC12.  All rights reserved.