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Author Topic: Free Speech - Outdated?
FiredrakeRAGE
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While many stand up for the free speech abilities of some very reprehensible groups, the more benign exercises of free speech seem to be very limited lately. While Illinois Nazis can march, it is the smaller, less publicized exercises of free speech that are being trod upon. During the Bush and Kerry presidential campaigns, 'Free Speech Zones' were erected a significant distance from political groups. In other cases protestors were arrested, charged with small misdemeanors and held in jail for the duration of the event. While allowing traffic to flow and protecting the life of the President are very real concerns, the ability of protestors (even the idiots) to protest should not be abridged.

Another article (below) references a pair of people arrested outside a court for creating a disturbance - exercising a right to free speech in a mostly non-confrontational manner. While they may be complete jerks, the fact that they were removed from the government premises and charges were assessed bothers me.

http://www.newsday.com/news/local/longisland/ny-lijoke124112175jan12,0,2936521.story?coll=ny-topstories-headlines

What do you all think? When is free speech and peaceable assembly allowed? What is too much restriction on free speech and the right to assemble? Are 'free speech zones' valid? What is the difference between 'free speech' and 'disturbing the peace'?

--Firedrake

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Paladine
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Well, in my opinion, the Constitution does not prohibit state or local governments from abridging free speech. That prohibition, according to my reading of the document anyway, should be binding solely upon Congress.

The line between "free speech" and "disturbing the peace" is a tricky one, and I'm honestly not quite sure where I'd draw it. Perhaps I'll develop more of a position on it as the thread progresses (assuming it does)? A very interesting and important question, at any rate.

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Callister
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quote:
Well, in my opinion, the Constitution does not prohibit state or local governments from abridging free speech. That prohibition, according to my reading of the document anyway, should be binding solely upon Congress.

If I remember correctly, this was the case until the Civil War, but the application of the 14th Amendment for the past hundred and forty years by all levels of the judicial branch pretty much squelched that state of affairs.
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FiredrakeRAGE
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From the New York State Constitution:

quote:
§8. Every citizen may freely speak, write and publish his or her sentiments on all subjects, being responsible for the abuse of that right; and no law shall be passed to restrain or abridge the liberty of speech or of the press. In all criminal prosecutions or indictments for libels, the truth may be given in evidence to the jury; and if it shall appear to the jury that the matter charged as libelous is true, and was published with good motives and for justifiable ends, the party shall be acquitted; and the jury shall have the right to determine the law and the fact. (Amended by vote of the people November 7, 2001.)

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kenmeer livermaile
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Hmmm... free speech. Since the advent of mass audio-video media, free speech has adopted all kinds of new twists. Dissenting folks like to gather in large groups and impress others with their numbers and solidarity. Do it at an event representing what you disapprove of, and hopefully, goes the logic, you'll impress the collective mind of the populace.

I was a kid and saw the west and south side of Chicago glow red at night from fires started by riots after the '68 Democratic convention protests. Dad was a fireman. We didn't see him for 4-5 days.

Free speech/disturbance of peace boundaries exist somehwere inbetween these, I suppose.

The 'Free Speech' zone always has some kind of perimeter. Is it too small or not, I seem to hear you ask. Feels kinda tight to me right now, but the times they are constantly a-changing.

My guess is that ere long the zone will expand a lot.

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scifibum
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Only time free speech should be restricted is when it impacts the freedom/rights of others.

If the guys in front of the courthouse were seriously impeding others from what it was their right/duty to do, then by all means let them have some consequences for that.

On the other hand if they were simply embarrassing or annoying, but not seriously infringing on anyone else's rights, then they should have been left alone.

YRTSYFEAMN? "Your right to speak your feelings ends at my ...?" "Nose," I suppose. There's no good n-word for "infringed rights."

I don't know how well this can be defined. I think we need to err on the side of protecting the right to free speech though.

From what I've read it sounds like the guys in the article were -not- doing anything serious enough to warrant an arrest or charges.

On the other hand believe that if someone is annoying people in general, then people in general have every right to tell him where to stick it. It may not work, but thems the breaks. I don't want "the man" shutting anyone's speech down for being a trivial nuisance.

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FiredrakeRAGE
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As far as I've read, the guys the article spoke of were annoying anti-lawyer, anti-big-government activists. I'd go so far as to call them 'nuts'. However, I've yet to see it indicated anywhere that they did more than speak against a particular government institution (the courts - lawyers specifically) and crack a few jokes.

--Firedrake

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Gaoics79
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This sounds like a pretty isolated incident; I seriously doubt too many people are going to be arrested for insulting some lawyers. (not an uncommon occurrence, no doubt)

As for free speech, I have no problem with peaceful protests, so long as they don't disrupt public order. There is a breed of protesters out there who believe that "peaceful" protest can include smashing windows and other property, because it's merely property and not people. I have also gotten into debates with people in my school who believe protesters should have the right to block/delay traffic leading into the school for their protests. The police should drag these guys away.

There are also types of protesters who believe they should have "access" to high level government officials. They try to scale fences, "occupy" buildings, etc... all so they can "talk" with visiting dignitaries and public figures. Apparently they think that freedom of speech includes the right to walk into the boardroom at a WTO meeting and "protest" in person. I think police batons and tear gas is the best response to this kind of "protester".

[ January 14, 2005, 09:03 AM: Message edited by: jasonr ]

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kenmeer livermaile
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"There are also types of protesters who believe they should have "access" to high level government officials. They try to scale fences, "occupy" buildings, etc... all so they can "talk" with visiting dignitaries and public figures. Apparently they think that freedom of speech includes the right to walk into the boardroom at a WTO meeting and "protest" in person. I think police batons and tear gas is the best response to this kind of "protester"."

I don't think it necessary to put quotes on the word protestor in this regard. More apt to write it in CAPS. They are definitely PROTESTING. I don't think batons are a good tool, nor tear gas. Simple arrest will suffice.

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Paladine
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quote:
If I remember correctly, this was the case until the Civil War, but the application of the 14th Amendment for the past hundred and forty years by all levels of the judicial branch pretty much squelched that state of affairs.
An incorrect application of the 14th Amendment, in my opinion anyway.

quote:
Only time free speech should be restricted is when it impacts the freedom/rights of others.
It can be argued that people have certain rights that extend beyond merely not being hit in the nose. Among these might be the right to expect a certain level of order in public places.
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The Drake
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Do I have the right to stand in the street with a bullhorn at 1AM - in a residential neighborhood - and carp about everything I think is wrong with the world?

Absolutely not. I'd get a citation right quick.

The freedom of speech protects the expression of ideas, not everywhere and at any time and in any manner. It guarantees that the people can speak out against the government, against other citizens, or about injustice.

There is no "speech" being infringed when protesters are kept from blocking traffic and causing chaos. Organized marches, with the proper permits, are just fine. Rallies, in the right kind of area - like a public park - are great too.

The one thing I don't understand is how protesters think that they will gain support by aggravating the community around them. If a public safety issue comes up (throwing rocks, setting fires, overturning cars), the cause will be tainted and linked with the violence.

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kenmeer livermaile
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"The one thing I don't understand is how protesters think that they will gain support by aggravating the community around them. If a public safety issue comes up (throwing rocks, setting fires, overturning cars), the cause will be tainted and linked with the violence."

I know from personal experience that activist groups are infiltrated by government employees whose purpose is to encourage them to step over the line from legitimate free speech or sensible civil disobedience into illegitimate screech and uncivil destruction. The goal is to turn an orderly demonstration communicating a worthy objective into an unruly mob succumbing to mob hysteria.

Not that there aren't activist groups that contain enough hysterics of their own to achieve saif agent provocateurs' goals for them.

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Weezah
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I don't see anything unethical or illegel about the government using such tactics. If the mob will succumb to such forces, they might have without an instigator there. I believe that the government certainly has the right to protect other citizens from disorder and harrasment. Some protestors are not there to seriuosly make a point but merely to offend and upset others.
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TomDavidson
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"If the mob will succumb to such forces, they might have without an instigator there."

*blink* Should I point out the flaws in this argument, or do you see them already?

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FiredrakeRAGE
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Weezah -

I believe that is called 'Entrapment'. I think it's a felony [Smile]

--Firedrake

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Callister
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quote:
An incorrect application of the 14th Amendment, in my opinion anyway.

Okay. Good luck taking that to court. [Smile]
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IrishTD
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I'll second what The Drake has already said.
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JLMyers
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I second what Drake and scifibum have said, I think KL is being paranoid, and Weezah is wrong. [Smile]

KE

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kenmeer livermaile
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"I don't see anything unethical or illegel about the government using such tactics. If the mob will succumb to such forces, they might have without an instigator there. I believe that the government certainly has the right to protect other citizens from disorder and harrasment. Some protestors are not there to seriuosly make a point but merely to offend and upset others."

Um, entrapment is illegal. Incitement to riot is also. Conspiring to disturb the peace, cause vandalism, promote activty that can cause serious injury to participants and innocent bystanders, these are all illegal and WRONG.

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kenmeer livermaile
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"I think KL is being paranoid"

Sorry. KL was there. KL knows. KL has also read verified accounts of such activity. COINTELPRO was full of such stuff.

Here's a distinction, a division of powers: the CIA gets to plant agents provacateur braod. The FBI gets to do so at home, at least, when it can get away with it.

This doesn't mean I don't have paranoia, mind you. But I;ve learned through direct experience that sometimes The Man really IS watching you -- and messing wid yez.

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The Drake
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Is there a credible source that describes such infiltration? Not just infiltration - that's pretty well documented. But specifically the incitement part.
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kenmeer livermaile
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“Is there a credible source that describes such infiltration? Not just infiltration - that's pretty well documented. But specifically the incitement part.”

Well, there’s me, but that depends on your finding my personal experience credible. As for written documents, I’ve no clue. It’s been years since I’ve read on the subject.

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ben5
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"I hate Illinois Nazis"
-John Belushi in blues brothers

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Ikemook
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"I believe that the government certainly has the right to protect other citizens from disorder and harrasment..."

...by inciting groups to riot? Government has a right to prevent disorder by creating more disorder? I'm not saying this actually happened(ens), as I've seen no evidence for it, but how, exactly, is the government keeping you safe by provoking people into causing property damage, and potentially human injury?

Sincerely and Respectfully,

David Carlson

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FiredrakeRAGE
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When quoting someone within the forum, could members please put the name of the quotee above, next to, or after the quote? It makes the thread significantly more readable.

Thank you,

--Firedrake

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LadyKat
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The only valid reason that I can see for having an infiltrator incite something is to control the when and where, not the if. If the government believes that a give group will (will not may) become violent and they have a way to do so (infiltrator), I can’t see them not picking the stage so as to better control the outcome.

Whether such practices actually occur, I don’t know. Whether such are legal, ditto.

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