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Author Topic: How do we all feel about "protest zones?"
TomDavidson
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http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2003/10/16/secret_service/index.html
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Tokyo
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It is, I think clearly, a direct threat to free speech. I remember when we got the first of these sickeningly misnamed zones at colleges, taking the people who wanted to speak their minds and make their causes known, and moving them to a little-traveled, out-of-the-way corner where hardly anyone would hear what they had to say.

Speech is not free if you're not allowed to speak where people can hear you.

Politically, this is not much more than an extension of the concept of having a politician speak at "public" events where only party members are allowed to attend, in order to create a false sense of popular support.

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Colin JM0397
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Kinda like town hall meetings where all the attendees and questions are prescreened so nothing untasteful gets through?

Just makes it easier to round up the "hateful" people when/if the time comes.

Addition:
To be fair, this happens with politicians on both sides. I'm sure more than just me remember hearing about Hillary Clinton's "goon squads", for example.

[ October 16, 2003, 09:40 AM: Message edited by: jm0397 ]

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sruffelman
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I am absolutely appalled by that article. I cannot believe that people were denied their right to free speech like that. I would not blame Bush for it, as the article seems to, but still is bothers me.

This country was founded on protesting and think by doing things like that we are in direct contradition to why the USA was started originally. Baffling, it really is.

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Adjudicator
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This is awesome. I've always thought that we needed separate free speech areas. It helps cut down on the confusion of knowing which people are speaking their minds and which are following the correct view.

Hopefully this stride forward in human rights will be followed by dissident voting booths at the elections and eventually the introduction of political gulags in Alaska.

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sruffelman
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Yes, there will be different places to vote for either cantidate and they'll put the democrat's place always at the top of some mountain or underwater.

(Sigh)... Sit back and think of Florida(2000).

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Tokyo
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Instead of callem them "free speech zones," all other areas should be called "No Free Speech Zones." Puts the situation in the correct light. Instead of the misleading name which makes people think that free speech is being served, it needs to be pointed out that freedom of speech is being denied in most public places.
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Everard
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*Mutters angrily, waves arms around wildly, stomps off to corner and bangs head against wall*
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jenkins2004.com
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Outrageous and Bush should be called on it immediately and should issue a formal apology.

Email to White House sent...

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Ryoko
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I can think of several good reasons for having "protest zones".

1. Public safety. If a free speech demonstration endangers public safety, then it is quite reasonable to confine the event to a safe area.

2. To allow equal access to free speech. For example, if a gay rights group and an anti-gay group both had demonstrations at the same time, it is appropriate to give them each their own areas so that both sides can present their views without being shouted down by the other side.

3. Free speech does not give you the right to take away someone else's fundamental rights. For example, it is ok for strikers to form a picket line outside of a place of business. It is NOT ok to physically prevent a "scab" from crossing the picket line to go to work. If such a problem occurred, then it would be appropriate to form a "protest zone" for the striking workers that doesn't allow them to physically block access to the workplace.

A Protest Zone isn't wrong in principle, it depends on the motivations for having them. If, as the article says, the purpose is to hide the protestors from the media, then that would be wrong. Of course, if that was the purpose, they didn't do a very good job of it since it obviously made the papers anyway. [Wink]

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LetterRip
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Doing a google news search I see a total of nine articles on "free speech zones" over the past month. Of those, about half seem to be on the ACLU case against the US regarding free speech zones regarding protests near prominent figures. The rest are regarding free speech zones at colleges.

It might be more acceptable if different protestors were not treated differently. But apparently protestors that are "on message" are staged closer to the media, and get other favorable treatment.

LetterRip

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Tokyo
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Ryoko:

All three points you mention are covered by normal statutes; organized public demonstrations require permits, through which process those points are addressed. The "free speech zones" are a different matter, specifically intended to remove unwanted protestors to removed areas, not for safety or coordination, but because someone in power doesn't want them seen too close, or even heard much at all.

Before the zones, free speech in the form of protesting against politicians was allowed in places where they could be seen in the same camera shot as the politicians. That was a key point. The pols knew that if they appeared in the same shot, it would be an embarrassment. Remove them to a safe distance, and the shots are separate, making a big PR difference. Instead of protesting the politicians, the protesters are protesting an empty street. Not exactly the same thing. You rarely see media images of protesters within sight of politicians, something that used to be common.

As for the coverage, a Google search is not very conclusive. If there is less coverage in the press, it is not surprising. That's the entire idea behind the zones, after all--to reduce the impact and coverage of protests.

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FIJC
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quote:
"1. Public safety. If a free speech demonstration endangers public safety, then it is quite reasonable to confine the event to a safe area.

2. To allow equal access to free speech. For example, if a gay rights group and an anti-gay group both had demonstrations at the same time, it is appropriate to give them each their own areas so that both sides can present their views without being shouted down by the other side.

3. Free speech does not give you the right to take away someone else's fundamental rights. For example, it is ok for strikers to form a picket line outside of a place of business. It is NOT ok to physically prevent a "scab" from crossing the picket line to go to work. If such a problem occurred, then it would be appropriate to form a "protest zone" for the striking workers that doesn't allow them to physically block access to the workplace.

A Protest Zone isn't wrong in principle, it depends on the motivations for having them. If, as the article says, the purpose is to hide the protestors from the media, then that would be wrong. Of course, if that was the purpose, they didn't do a very good job of it since it obviously made the papers anyway."

I do not believe that Protest Zones are a wrong principle either. Many times, protesters disturb the ability of businesses and organizations to conduct their daily affairs. I support the 1st Amendment, but also believe that the rights of protesters need to be balanced with the rights of employers and employees to conduct their daily business. For instance, it can be very frustrating to go to work and and have difficulty even getting into your building because a bunch of crazy Larouchites are all over the place, protesting everything under the sun. I also know that protests often cause a large net loss for various businesses and organizations, because large conferences and events have to be canceled for the reason that employees and guests can't even get into a building safely.
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Enumclaw
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Balance. That's the key to all of this.

For example, if a large protest is being organized and they wanna march through downtown, well, some businesses will suffer. That's too bad; part of being lucky enough to have your business in this nation is that you also gotta put up with a protest now and again.

But if someone wants to protest every single day and continually block your business... that's unfair. People should be able to get to it.

So balance is key.

The Bush Administration (and make no mistake about it, this is wholly driven by politics and NOT the Secret Service) is unfairly violating the rights of these protesters. By allowing the "friendlies" to stay but forcing the "unfriendlies" to remote locations, they make it obvious that they're unbalanced.

If the Secret Service came and said "we gotta block all demonstrators, pro- and con-" that'd be one thing. However, they're plainly not.

There is no guarantee, in a nation founded on free speech, that one will not be exposed to said free speech. For example, if you want to get an abortion, it's possible (indeed, likely in some places) that you're going to hear people shouting at you on your way in. Too bad. You get the freedom and so do they.

But at the same time, those shouting should not be allowed to unfairly block the abortion clinic.

Balance. This "policy" of the Secret Service is not balanced.

Paul

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Gaoics79
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I don't know how it is in your country, but here in Canada, protesters think they own the streets. They routinely block up entrances to universities (slowing traffic to a trickle) cause disruptions in business, and otherwise make nuisances of themselves. It is not so much the inconvenience that pisses me off but the arrogance of these useless scumbags, who think their pet-cause of the week gives them the right to disrupt the lives of ordinary citizens. You know what, I don't know about protest zones, but personally, if a protester tries to stop you from getting where you're going, I think you're morally correct to keep driving, slowly. If they don't get out of the way, then you should run them over, and it will be their fault for not getting out of the way. This may sound harsh, and maybe it is, but I am sick of people who think roadblocks, barricades, and broken windows are part and parcel to freedom of speech.
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TomDavidson
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I don't believe roadblocks OR barricades are protected by the American interpretation of the free speech clause. Does Canada's constitution interpret speech differently?

Here in America, the right to speech does not include the right to restrict access.

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Gaoics79
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You know, now that I think of it, the only place I remember protesters explicitly blocking traffic was on university campuses. They were permitted to slow down traffic, allowing, say, one car to pass every X seconds. I confess, it may be that this was permitted by the university itself. This, of course, meant that hundreds of people were delayed from getting where they were going on campus, to their jobs, to their classes, etc... Even if the university did permit this activity, I don't think it excuses the protesters. And I do know that for the more violent protests (or, more to the point, the ones that everyone knows were planned to be violent by the organizers) the police have been forced to close off entire sections of downtown to traffic. I can tolerate people standing on the sidewalk shouting slogans and waving banners peacefully, but if they stop so much as one car, or prevent one person from getting where they're going, they should be warned. If they don't stop their behavior, they should be arrested.
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Enumclaw
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Balance. Here in America, if you really want to, you can have a protest march down an interstate freeway.

You're liable to have to plan for the protest for a year in advance, and hold it at 5:30am on a summer weekend morning, but you can do it.

OTOH, if you want to have a protest in the middle of a city, you can pull that off with less lead time and less hassle; and if you want to protest on a street corner and not block traffic or the sidewalk, often you can do so without any permitting or advance notice whatsoever.

Locally, one city passed a law that limited non-planned protests on street corners to three or four people. So one group put the max on each corner of an intersection, and when they had more people they'd station them at the neighboring intersections.

In a way, it was a more effective protest than merely blocking the main intersection for a couple of hours. Nobody got arrested, the message was in people's face no matter which direction they were traveling, and the message was driven home by being seen here, and in the next block, and the next....

It's all about balance. Indeed, the job of the Supreme Court often winds up being about balancing various rights.

You have a right to free speech, but I have a right to go watch a movie without you jumping up in the middle of it to rail against whatever. I have a right to religion, but you have a right to not be killed because my religion says "kill all left-handed people". (Luckily for the Supreme Court, these are easy judgements to make to strike a fair balance. [Smile] )

Protest zones, however, are grossly out-of-balance, because they are making a judgement call on the CONTENT of the speech, not the fact that someone is making ANY speech. When pro-Bushies are allowed to remain but anti-Bushies cannot, that's plainly unfair and out of balance.

It astounds me that people of ALL political persuasions aren't upset about this.

Paul

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WarrsawPact
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"Free speech zones" indicate a general assumption of disrespect for the Constitution. I get my right to free speech and the right to assemble peacefully from my Divine Creator, not a college board. When you set up "free speech zones," the message you're really sending is that you've set up free speech suspension zones everywhere else on campus.

Need I be clearer?

It's a fundamental violation of Consitutional rights. End it.

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WarrsawPact
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Wow, it worked.
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