Unfortunately, at least one person out there disagrees with that fundamental American idea. That person made his or her displeasure known last weekend by firing a pellet or BB gun at a group of war protesters in downtown Columbia.
According to the protesters and police, the pellet or BB pierced a sign held by a member of the group.
The protesters, largely Quakers, whose religion teaches pacifism, gather at the intersection of Broken Land and Little Patuxent parkways each Saturday afternoon in a silent vigil against the war.
Polls showing overwhelming support for the war make clear that such protesters are in the minority.
But that is all the more reason to ensure that they not be harassed into silence. The Quakers among them are acting out of religious belief.
In any case, both the letter and spirit of the law require that they be allowed to gather peacefully no matter their motives.
To violently harass them in any way is not in its turn an expression of free speech, but an act of thuggery.
Such thuggery must not be tolerated. That pellet easily could have blinded someone.
We urge county police to do whatever is necessary to ensure that no one is allowed to intimidate the protesters _ or anyone exercising their right to free assembly and speech _ into silence.