Court Silences Political Speech…For Now

We just lost — for the moment, at least — an important court case about the right to protest. In 2005, Leslie Weise and Alex Young were removed from one of President Bush’s speeches. The speech was open to the public and funded by taxpayers. The lawsuit charges that they were ejected because they arrived in a car with a bumper sticker that said, “no more blood for oil.”

The ACLU filed suit on their behalf, arguing that Leslie and Alex were kicked out solely because they disagreed with the President. We reasoned that, if the First Amendment stands for anything, it’s that the government cannot punish people because of their political views.

This is the sort of case that we do not expect to lose. It seems obvious that when the President gives a speech on the taxpayer’s dime and invites everyone to come, he can’t then weed out people he doesn’t like because of what they believe.

The district court in Colorado did not find it so obvious. The court wrote that Leslie and Alex’s “complaint is essentially that they were not permitted to participate in the President’s speech. President Bush had the right, at his own speech, to ensure that only his message was conveyed.” The court dismissed Leslie and Alex’s case.

We believe this decision is wrong. Leslie and Alex did not want to speak at the President’s event. They weren’t trying to stand up on the stage with him. They just wanted to listen to his message.

What the court seems to be suggesting is that when the President speaks, the audience is part of his message. The President has the right to surround himself by adoring supporters, and to exclude all of those who may not agree with him. Why the President might wish to do this is clear: so that when the nightly news broadcasts images of the event, he is surrounded by supporters, not those who vigorously question his policy choices.

This can’t be the law. If this is the law, then those who attend Presidential speeches are not audience members in the traditional sense, but are more like extras on a movie set. They are cast there to play a particular role, namely to support the President. This is a far cry from the notion of open, public debate as we’ve always understood it.

It is likely that Leslie and Alex will appeal this decision.

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Liberal hater

Why the hell doesn't the American Criminal Liberties Union protect the free speech when it comes to religion.

And let's see if the ACLU stands up for conservatives who criticize Obama.
I sure as hell doubt it!

kidcharles

This ruling seems absurd. It appears the plaintiffs were essentially charged with thought crime. Because they arrived in a car with a bumper sticker with a particular message the event security assumed they would behave in a certain way before they actually did. I'm not a lawyer but am I off-base here? They should certainly appeal this ruling.

Hawaiian style

What is the difference between people yelling, "Yes, Yes I agree with you", and yelling, "No, No I don't agree"?

Are not both groups by the courts definition participating in the President's speech?

No? Tell me why not.

Dixiecrat

The ACLU upholds free speech, regardless of the popularity of the cause or reputation of the speaker. Read the Skokie, IL/Nazi/ACLU story if you think the ACLU only sides with "liberals" -- that should convince you if nothing else does!

Liberal Like America

The fact that the speech was paid for by taxpayers dollars gave President Bush absolutely no right to ensure that only his own message was conveyed at the event, especially in regard to a lawful bumper sticker on someone else's lawful property that is reasonably brought to said event. The court's reasoning in this case is completely flawed and there should be no trouble in having such a ruling overturned.

The president is an elected official, anyway, and all citizens have the right to communicate to and receive communication from their elected officials in regard to the performance of their duties paid for with public money. An elected official cannot expect to use their office as a propaganda tool. That is not in the best interests of this country.

Looking for fai...

Free speech??? Only for some...

Is the ACLU planning on getting involved in the state of Ohio on the behalf of Samuel J. Wurzelbacher, "Joe the Plumber"? ACLU seems to be unusually silent on this one.

How does this organization determine whose civil liberties are worth standing up for and whose are not? It seems to me that Joe the Plumber does not deserve the same defense that others are afforded by the ACLU.

Why was Helen Jones-Kelley only suspended from her job? She should have been fired. Where are you, ACLU? Samuel Wurzelbacher's civil liberties were violated by so many people in the state of Ohio and you are no where to be found.

How about standing up for a hard working American man who asked a question and was attacked by Obama campaign workers and supporters?

Talk about an assault on one's right to free speech!

Where are you, ACLU?

Peaceable Reporting

Prior to the 2008 Elections, on October 26, 2008, I attended what was advertised, by the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL) as an "Open to the Public" event. The group had obtained a permit, to use the San Juan Capistrano Community Center. located at 25925 Camino Del Avion, San Juan Capistrano (SJC), CA 92675, (949) 770-6011.

The SJC website says, "The Center has become popular for wedding receptions, family reunions, meetings, and presentations with speakers." There is a fee schedule, and an application for Rental of Community Center.

PSL, had rented (un-confirmed) the venue for their meeting, since Sergio Farias, was running as a candidate for SJC city council, and Gloria La Riva, was a candidate for President of the USA.

From the PSL website:
"Sergio Farias, 25, was born and raised in SJC, Sergio leads SJC Against the Gang Injunction, the group that brought hundreds to the streets of SJC to oppose the racist gang injunction that targets Latino youth. Struggling against racism and oppression is a key component of his life and work. He is a member of the Party for Socialism and Liberation. Sergio Farias, is registered with the Peace & Freedom Party."

I went to the event, to witness, take pictures, and record audio and video, which I would later post online, and burn to CDs for sale.

When I tried to enter, I was stopped, by a couple of the PSL members, and that was backed up, by three Deputies of Orange County Sheriff's Department.

As I could not go in, I satisfied my time and expense, by taking many pictures, video, and recording audio. I was not waving a flag or holding a sign, just using my camera and recording devices.

My issue, is since the venue was on public property and it was a political event, and not some social event, such as a birthday party or wedding reception, I feel my free speech rights as a citizen, and my free speech rights as a reporter, were violated. My rights were violated by the Orange County Sheriff's Department since they prevented my peaceable participation in a political event. My rights were violated by the San Juan Capistrano City Council's lack of a policy, defining political or social use. My rights were violated by the Party for Socialism and Liberation, by their denying my peaceable access to a political event.

I guess my options are to lodge a complaint with the Orange County, CA, District Attorney and the Grand Jury.

batvette

I may be ignorant on the legalities of the matter but since the facility is rented by the party utilizing it, it becomes their private domain during the time they occupy it and they can choose whom they allow to attend the event- just as a wedding would have kept out anyone not invited. The fact it was a political event should only matter, I would speculate, if taxpayer funds were used to pay for or even partially subsidize the event. They may have even had to pay OCSD for the officers you saw present, SDPD for instance charges $95 per officer per hour for such services. Just imagine that both the Republican and Democrat conventions in the Presidential race were invite only as well. Sure the Press got in, but not just by showing up at the door.
If I'm wrong and you sought redress and were successful, please reply for my own education on the issue. Thanks.

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