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Tolerating Neo-Nazis

December 13, 1987

The Nov. 22 incident at the Glendale Holiday Inn when white supremacist R.J. Stoner spoke is to be regretted for a number of reasons.

First, that the Glendale police and the county sheriff's deputies were not able to keep the antagonistic groups apart so as to avoid violence.

Second, that in this 200th anniversary of the Constitution there are those among us who believe the way to express one's opposition to another's point of view is to engage in violence.

Third, and most important, that our lawmakers, the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors, actually called upon the Holiday Inn to break the law (Metro, Nov. 25) because the supervisors, likewise, do not like what Stoner had to say. The supervisors' action is the more egregious because the board is supposed to represent law and order, not disdain for the law. And that what is involved is the right to speak compounds the offense.

Supervisor Mike Antonovich is quoted as having said: "This entire episode could have been avoided altogether had the Holiday Inn cancelled Stoner's use of its facilities to vent his hate-filled diatribe." This represents, at best, ignorance of the law, or, at worst, willful disregard of it.

The fact aside that Antonovich blandly called upon the Holiday Inn to breach a valid contract (a sin no devotee of free enterprise should tolerate) and thus subject itself to liability for damages, he actually advocated that the hotel violate one of California's most important laws, the Unruh Civil Rights Act, again subjecting the hotel to damage liability. That statute, and cases decided pursuant to it subjects a business establishment to damages for refusing to serve all on an equal basis.

Supervisor Kenneth Hahn has gone even further. He is plumping for the county to boycott all Holiday Inns in retaliation for one of them having obeyed the law. He is quoted as having said: "If they want to make a fast buck, maybe they can lose more than they gained in this by our not staying at their hotels." The supervisor is saying: "If you want our business, you must engage in lawless conduct (violate the Civil Rights Act by refusing service to one entitled thereto)." For a supervisor to engage in this type of conduct is likewise unforgivable.

It is lamentable when lay persons do not understand or appreciate the beauty of our laws, especially the First Amendment. It is doubly so when persons in high places do not.

FRED OKRAND

Legal Director Emeritus

American Civil Liberties Union

Los Angeles

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