The first refugees from Vietnam after the fall of Saigon nearly 24 years ago were loudly and deeply anti-Communist. The old passions were rekindled this week in a case that brought a welcome reaffirmation of the 1st Amendment protections for free speech.
Orange County Superior Court Judge Tam Nomoto Schumann ruled that shopkeeper Truong Van Tran, challenged by a concerned landlord, had the right to display a picture of the late Communist leader Ho Chi Minh and the flag of Communist Vietnam in his electronics shop in Westminster's Little Saigon district. Two weeks ago Schumann ruled in favor of the landlord, but that was before lawyers for Tran raised the 1st Amendment issue.
While Tran's actions have been protected, that does not mean they have been entirely prudent. He notified several community groups last month of his plans, daring them to shut him down.
The 1st Amendment protects even unpopular speech. Those opposed to Tran also availed themselves of constitutional protections to picket his store. Unfortunately, there were two incidents in the past few weeks, including one Wednesday in which Tran was pushed around. He should heed police urgings to notify them when he plans to reenter his store, so order can be maintained.
Soon after Saigon's fall, tens of thousands of refugees settled in Orange County, stifling dissent on the rare occasions it occurred. The intensity of public anti-Hanoi feeling diminished with time, but the Tran incident shows it's still close to the surface. Those who fled Saigon as it fell and those who emigrated after spending harsh years in Vietnamese prison camps understandably remain bitter. They also must realize that the rules of engagement in their new home are guided by the Constitution and its protections.