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US AG Garland Affirms First Amendment Protection of Nazi Salutes

© REUTERS / POOLMerrick Garland, U.S. attorney general, is sworn in before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021.
Merrick Garland, U.S. attorney general, is sworn in before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021. - Sputnik International, 1920, 28.10.2021
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When it comes to discussions about how to protect US school officials from growing threats, one would be hard-pressed to think that the issue of performing Nazi salutes being protected by the American Constitution would need to be discussed as well.
US Attorney General Merrick Garland appeared to defend the right for Nazi salutes as he was speaking at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday, saying they are protected by the First Amendment.
It was Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) who asked him whether a Nazi salute comes under the protection of the US Constitution, when discussing a memo about responding to threats aimed at school board officials at the hearing.
Responding to the question, Garland said: "Yes, it is".
Nazi salutes entered the spotlight as senators were scrutinising instances of harassment, disruption, or threatening behaviour during school board meetings. The incident under discussion involved a Michigan parent who performed a Nazi salute to protest mask requirements, which he deemed "oppressive".
Overall, the document being debated in the hearing included some 20 examples of similar incidents. It was a part of a letter penned by the National School Board Association to request the federal government to step in and assist in combating harassment against school officials, saying that some acts could amount to "domestic terrorism".
According to Garland, it is the Justice Department's duty "to protect the American people against violence and threats of violence and that particularly includes public officials".
His memo on the matter, however, drew criticism from Republicans, who pointed to the National School Board Association having since said that it "regret[s] and apologise[s] for the letter" over the language used in it. Republicans said that Garland should therefore rescind his memo, as, according to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, it was designed to "baselessly" investigate concerned parents.
When issuing the apology for some of the letter's language, the National School Board Association underlined that the issue of school officials' safety still is a top priority and needs to be addressed.
"The letter that was subsequently sent does not change the association's concern about violence with threats of violence", Garland said Wednesday. "It alters some of the language in the letter, language in the letter that we did not rely on and is not contained in my own memorandum. The only thing that [the] Justice Department is concerned about is violence and threats of violence".
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