On reading the Dec. 1 editorial (“Portland should respect protesters’ free speech”), I noticed that the first paragraph actually refutes that which follows.

While, as the editorial states, the courts have ruled that writing a check, wearing a T-shirt or burning a flag are exercises in free speech, they have also ruled that one must draw the check on his own account, buy his own T-shirt and own the flag that is burned.

In other words, there are caveats to the free speech rulings. One cannot obligate his fellow taxpayers to provide the microphone, signs or the auditorium to make one’s protest or assemble.

While it may be constitutionally protected to burn a flag, if the resulting fire violates laws regarding permits, there may be a fine or even jail. If the fire on the courthouse steps mars the steps, the instigator must pay the damages.

In the context of the Occupiers, the citizens of Portland are not obligated to provide a place for the protesters to make their statement. It should be noted that the tea party demonstrations have all taken place lawfully, with proper permits, and in every case, they have left the space as clean as they found it.

The Occupiers have not just protested; they have befouled public spaces at considerable expense to the city. Local businesses that count on this season for a large portion of their annual business should not have to put up with the Occupiers creating a situation that will drive that business to other locations.

Reread this editorial in the context of who should pay for these protests. It should be the protesters, not the taxpayers. The right to free speech does not guarantee an audience or force anyone to listen.

Dave Irons is a resident of Westbrook.