Democracy in Times of Crisis: When Freedom and Security Collide
The 2021 W&J Symposium on Democracy focused on “Democracy in Times of Crisis: When Freedom and Security Collide.” The tension that often exists between freedom and security has been heightened by recent events in our nation and around the world. In January 2021, the violent storming of the U.S. Capitol threatened the security of elected leaders and the democratic process itself. In the wake of this insurrection, federal troops limited access to Washington, D.C., and corporations banned users from posting on social media, arguing that security concerns sometimes outweigh freedom of expression. Meanwhile, as the global health pandemic raged on, debates continued about the extent to which government should mandate health protocols such as masking and social distancing.
Some public officials responded to protests against racial injustice with curfews, tear gas and other forceful methods, insisting it was necessary to limit freedom of assembly in the interest of maintaining security. Internationally, 2020 saw a continuing decline in democracy as many governments imposed new limits on individual freedoms and political dissent. For example, China instituted a “national security law” to suppress democratic rule in Hong Kong and arrested elected leaders and pro-democracy activists.
The 2021 W&J Symposium on Democracy explored these and other issues with sessions led by noteworthy leaders, academic experts, and our own students.