Tag Archives: Freedom to Assemble

ACLU Shifts Position on Defending Armed Demonstrations After Charlottesville

In wake of violence at white supremacist rally in Virginia, legal group revises policy for demonstrators who insist on carrying weapons

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 8-18-2017

Photo: Inverse

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) will no longer defend groups that insist on marching with firearms, following violent gatherings of white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia last weekend.

“The events of Charlottesville require any judge, any police chief, and any legal group to look at the facts of any white-supremacy protests with a much finer comb,” Anthony Romero, the ACLU’s long-serving executive director, told the Wall Street Journal Thursday evening. Continue reading

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Protests in Poland as Right-Wing Ruling Party Dismantles Democracy

‘This is a blatant attack by Poland’s government on the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law’

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-21-2017

Protesters across Poland have flooded the streets for the past week, condemning judicial reforms that will give the right-wing ruling party control over judge selections. (Grzegorz Żukowski/Flickr/cc)

Tens of thousands poured into the streets in Poland Thursday night, condemning proposed laws that would dramatically weaken the nation’s judicial system, just two weeks after U.S. President Donald Trump visited the country and praised its commitment to freedom and democracy, speaking to “an audience of close to 15,000 enthusiastic, flag-waving Poles—many of them bused in by Poland’s ruling right-wing” party.

The pending judicial reform is just the latest in a series of anti-democratic measures adopted in Poland since the far-right Law and Justice Party (PiS) came to power in 2015. As the New York Times noted, the party has “increased government control over the news media, cracked down on public gatherings, and restricted the activities of nongovernmental organizations.” It has also limited female reproductive rights. Continue reading

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Protesters Face 80 Years as US Attorney Brings Unprecedented Mass Felony Charges

By Chris Schiano. Published 6-29-2017 by Unicorn Riot

Washington, DC – Dozens of the over two hundred people arrested protesting President Trump’s inauguration on January 20 (‘J20’) have appeared in court over the last two weeks.

(Content Advisory: Sexual Assault)

The arrests took place on the morning of January 20 during an ‘anti-capitalist/anti-fascist’ march, which traveled approximately sixteen blocks, during which police attacked protesters, medics, journalists, and bystanders with chemical weapons, batons, and concussion/flashbang grenades. Several corporate store windows were broken, and there was a melee as part of the crowd was able to charge through police lines to escape the mass arrest as officers began to move into a ‘kettle’ formation, eventually arresting every person in the vicinity. Continue reading

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Trump Official Praises Autocratic Rule: ‘Not a Single Hint of a Protester’ in Saudi Arabia

No ‘bad placards’ in nation where such political dissent is punishable by death

By Lauren McCauley, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 5-22-2017

Wilbur Ross. Photo: Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Putting a fine point on the spin that President Donald Trump’s trip to the Middle East has been a glowing, peace-dealing success, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross praised the fact that there were no protesters in Saudi Arabia—a nation where political dissonance is punishable by death.

Speaking to CNBC on Monday, Ross, who accompanied Trump on the weekend trip to Riyadh, said he found it “fascinating” that he did not see “a single hint of a protester anywhere there during the whole time we were there. Not one guy with a bad placard.” Continue reading

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Will Turkey Hand Erdoğan Authoritarian Rule With Referendum Vote?

Polls show the public is split ahead of historic vote, but the government’s crackdown on dissent has silenced the opposition

By Lauren McCauley, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 4-14-2017

Turkish women are leading the opposition. “This is not a coincidence,” writes author and activist Elif Shafak. “When societies slide into authoritarianism, ultranationalism and fanaticism, women have much more to lose than men.” (Photo: Guido Menato/cc/flickr)

Turkish citizens head to the polls on Sunday to vote on a historic referendum that could potentially cement autocratic rule in the nation, consolidating power for President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

If the referendum passes, “it will abolish the office of prime minister, enabling the president to centralize all state bureaucracy under his control and also to appoint cabinet ministers,” AFP reports. Erdoğan would also “control the judiciary” and essentially “rule by decree,” Foreign Policy in Focus columnist Conn Hallinan further noted. Continue reading

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Neil Gorsuch and the First Amendment: Questions the Senate Judiciary Committee should ask

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Gorsuch meets with Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga. on Friday, Feb. 10, 2017. AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Clay Calvert, University of Florida

Senate Judiciary Committee hearings for United States Supreme Court justice nominee Neil Gorsuch are underway. The Conversation

It’s time to consider some key questions about First Amendment speech rights the senators should ask during the constitutionally mandated advice-and-consent process.

These hearings often are contentious. That was the case for Justice Clarence Thomas in the early 1990s. And they surely won’t be a cake walk this time, given Democratic anger over Republican inaction on Merrick Garland, former President Barack Obama’s nominee to replace Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February 2016.

The First Amendment questions I’d pose to Gorsuch are critical because the man who nominated him, President Donald J. Trump, bashes the press as “the enemy of the people” yet proclaims no one loves the First Amendment more than he.

An obvious question for Judge Gorsuch is his view of the court’s 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission. That five-to-four decision divided sharply along perceived partisan lines. It affected the speech rights of corporations and unions in funding political ads shortly before elections. Committee Democrats no doubt will grill Gorsuch about Citizens United.

As the director of the Marion B. Brechner First Amendment Project at the University of Florida, I would like to suggest at least three other timely and vital questions he should be asked about speech rights – but that I doubt he will face.

Capturing cops on camera in public

The first question I’d pose to Gorsuch involves an issue the Supreme Court has never tackled – does the First Amendment protect a person’s right to record police officers doing their jobs in public places?

It’s a vital question in light of incidents such as the April 2015 shooting in the back of unarmed African-American Walter Scott by white police officer Michael Slager in South Carolina. A video of it was captured on a smartphone by barber Feidin Santana while walking to work. It was key evidence in Slager’s murder trial – which ended with a hung jury.

Without guidance from the Supreme Court about recording cops in public venues, lower courts have had to sort it out for themselves.

Just last month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit concluded in Turner v. Driver that “First Amendment principles, controlling authority, and persuasive precedent demonstrate that a First Amendment right to record the police does exist, subject only to reasonable time, place and manner restrictions.” That’s a positive step in terms of creating a constitutional right to record cops within the Fifth Circuit, which includes Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi. But just what constitutes a “reasonable” restriction is extremely vague and problematic, especially because judges usually defer to officers’ judgments.

Worse still, some courts haven’t even recognized any First Amendment right to record police.

In the case of Fields v. City of Philadelphia, now under review by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, a federal judge ruled there is no First Amendment right to film police in public spaces unless the person recording does so with the intent of challenging or criticizing police actions. In brief, there is no First Amendment right to neutrally record police as a bystander or journalist in Philadelphia.

Gorsuch thus should be asked: “Do citizens have a First Amendment right to record police doing their jobs in public places and, if there is such a right, what – if any – are the specific limits on that right?”

The right to protest in public places

Trump’s presidency ushers in a new era of confrontational political activism. Protests against Trump and rallies for him are common, with some ending in arrests. Berkeley, California – home of the 1960s free speech movement – saw 10 arrests this month when pro- and anti-Trump individuals clashed.

Gorsuch should be questioned about the First Amendment right to peaceably assemble and the limits on that right affecting political demonstrations on public streets, sidewalks and parks. The Supreme Court privileges such “quintessential public forums” for picketing and protests, and it carefully reviews any restrictions imposed there on speech and assembly. Would Gorsuch follow that tradition of protection?

Disturbingly, The New York Times reported earlier this month that lawmakers in more than 15 states are considering bills that would curb, to varying degrees, the right to protest. Some measures, such as Florida Senate Bill 1096, do so by requiring a special event permit be obtained before any protest on a street, thus stifling spontaneous demonstrations that might occur after a controversial executive order or a startling jury verdict.

Requiring the government to grant a permit before one can protest constitutes a prior restraint on speech. Prior restraints, the Supreme Court has repeatedly found, are presumptively unconstitutional.

Gorsuch thus should be asked: “What, if any, limits are there on the First Amendment right to engage in political speech in public spaces, including streets, sidewalks and parks?”

The right to offend

Finally, I’d ask Gorsuch for his views about the First Amendment right to offend. It’s an important topic today for three reasons.

First, protesters may use offensive language to capture attention and show the passion behind their views. The Supreme Court traditionally protects offensive political speech, as it famously did in 1971 in Cohen v. California. There it ruled in favor of Paul Robert Cohen’s First Amendment right to wear a jacket with the words “F— the Draft” in a Los Angeles courthouse hallway.

Second, some believe there’s a pall of political correctness in society, particularly in higher education. Some students may be deterred from using certain language or expressing particular viewpoints for fear they will offend others and thus be punished.

Third, the Supreme Court is set to rule in the coming months in a case called Lee v. Tam. It centers on the power of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to deny an Asian-American band called The Slants trademark registration over that name because it allegedly disparages Asians. The court heard oral argument in the case in January.

I’d thus ask Gorsuch: “When does offensive expression – in particular, offensive speech on political and social issues – lose protection under the First Amendment?”

Gorsuch already has submitted written answers to the Judiciary Committee on some issues, but not on the questions raised here. These topics – filming cops in public, protesting on streets and sidewalks, and using offensive language – seem especially relevant in a turbulent Trump era.

Clay Calvert, Brechner Eminent Scholar in Mass Communication, University of Florida

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Outcry Kills Anti-Protest Law in Arizona, But Troubling Trend Continues Nationwide

Rash of anti-protest laws and effort to dismiss demonstrators as ‘paid agitators’ are ‘standard operating procedure for movement opponents,’ says expert

By Lauren McCauley, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 2-28-2017

Approximately 50 protesters gather outside of the Pentagon City Mall in Arlington, Virginia on Saturday, November 29th, 2014 to show solidarity with Ferguson, Missouri protests. (Photo: Joseph Gruber/cc/flickr)

An Arizona bill that sought to prosecute protest organizers like racketeers is officially dead after widespread outcry forced state lawmakers to put that effort to rest, marking a victory for the national resistance movement currently facing a rash of legislation aimed at stifling dissent.

Arizona House Speaker J.D. Mesnard announced late Monday that the bill, SB 1142, would not move forward in the legislature.

“I haven’t studied the issue or the bill itself, but the simple reality is that it created a lot of consternation about what the bill was trying to do,” Mesnard, a Republican, told the Phoenix New Times. “People believed it was going to infringe on really fundamental rights. The best way to deal with that was to put it to bed.” Continue reading

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A Journalist Accidentally Filmed Herself Getting Shot by DAPL Police

By Nick Bernabe. Published 11-4-2016 by The Anti-Media

North Dakota — In the ongoing standoff between Native American water protectors and the Dakota Access Pipeline, the presence of militarized law enforcement has become an everyday occurrence. As such, it came as no surprise Wednesday when riot gear-clad police held the line at the edge of Cantapeta Creek as protesters attempted to reach a hillside that is sacred to the Standing Rock Sioux.

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However, journalist Erin Schrode was not expecting to be shot in the face with a rubber bullet as she interviewed a peaceful protester on camera. The land she was standing on appears to be Standing Rock Reservation territory and is located on the opposite side of the creek where protesters were demonstrating. Watch the video below:

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In an emotional post on Facebook, Schrode described the incident:

“I was just shot. Militarized police fired at me from point blank range with a rubber bullet on the front lines of Standing Rock.

“My body will be okay, but I am hurting, I am incensed, I am weeping, I am scared. Peaceful, prayerful, unarmed, nonviolent people on one side of a river; militarized police with armed vehicles and assault weapons occupying treaty land on the other, where sacred burial grounds have already been destroyed. What is happening here in North Dakota is like nothing I have ever seen in my life, anywhere in the world. This is a fight to protect and defend the water for 17 million people in the watershed downstream to the Gulf, for a livable planet, for Native and human rights, for the lifeforce of us all. We are at the confluence of the movements for civil rights, for the environment, for peace, for justice. I am proud to stand in solidarity with our Native brothers and sisters – alongside the water protectors and land defenders – who put their lives on the line and are facing excessive force, pepper spray and mace, historic trauma, brutal arrest, imprisonment in dog kennels, felony charges, and callous destruction of sacred objects.”

This incident of law enforcement using violence against a journalist is not isolated; rather, it’s becoming a pattern at the site of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Dozens of journalists have been arrested, pepper sprayed, and now shot. Last week, our own Derrick Broze was tased by law enforcement while covering the protests for Anti-Media  — immediately after he told officers he was with the media.

About the author

Nick Bernabe founded Anti-Media in May of 2012. His topics of interest include civil liberties, the drug war, economic justice, foreign policy, geopolitics, government corruption, the police state, politics, propaganda, and social justice. He currently resides in Chula Vista, California, where he was born and raised.

This article is republished under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.

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Minnesota Dystopia

On the Saturday before Christmas, over 3,000 people gathered at the nation’s largest shopping mall as part of the Black Lives Matter protests that were happening nationwide at the time. We wrote about the MOA protest and how the various local media outlets chose to cover it, and wondered what the aftermath would be.

Photo by Ben Kressel (@krevWon) via Twitter

Photo by Ben Kressel (@krevWon) via Twitter

Yesterday, the City of Bloomington charged ten of the organizers of the protest with between three and seven misdemeanors each, depending on their supposed role in the demonstration. The various charges include trespassing, public nuisance, disorderly conduct, and unlawful assembly. Each charge is punishable by a maximum of 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. Twenty five other people are expected to be charged, according to city officials. Continue reading

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US Uses Double Standard for Occupy

On January 16th, the Ukraine Parliament passed a new law that allows the encampment at Independence Square in Kiev to be dismantled and outlaws demonstrations. The measure follows a month-long occupation of the Square by protestors urging the government to consider trade agreements with the EU, a process that has been ongoing for years. The government had decided to reject the EU agreement in support of the agenda promoted through trade with Russia.

In the response following the passing of the law, the United States joined other nations in  accusing lawmakers “of circumventing normal legislative procedures in a bid to suppress dissent by restricting freedom of speech and freedom of assembly,” according to a report in the New York Times.

One is reminded of the struggles in the US during the time the Occupy movement had encampments in many major US cities and college campuses. Remember Seattle, UC-Davis, Oakland, New York and all the other places the encampments were violently dismantled, people arrested and voices silenced.

One has to wonder how the US government can suppress voices of dissent within our cities while decrying other world governments for doing the very same thing. With the US Constitution giving all Americans these rights, it is reprehensible to see the hypocrisy.

Occupy World Writes stands in Solidarity with those in Independence Square, the city of Kiev, the people of Ukraine and all other voices who Occupy public space to exercise the freedom of speech and the freedom of assembly.

We ARE the 99%.

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