Tag Archives: protest

Wait, so there’s more than can’t be said than “Kill the POTUS”?

All too many people in the United States know someone dear to them that has passed away while fighting for our country. If the death of a loved one is not enough, imagine going through the process of grieving and accepting the loss while you are at the funeral and having sick, delusional people come and protest against the death. They hold signs with phrases like “God Killed Your Sons” or “Pray for More Dead Soldiers.” To make matters worse, if you try to get the group to stop the protests, they argue that it is their right to protest thanks to the freedom of speech clause by the First Amendment. A line must be drawn as to what can and cannot be said with regards to the First Amendment and freedom of speech. Unfortunately, this issue has been occurring all too often because of the gray area in the First Amendment.

The issues that occur with the freedom of speech clause have been prevalent since the beginning of the 1900s. In fact, 168 cases have appeared before the Supreme Court involving freedom of speech clause by the First Amendment. In 1917, Judge Learned Hand said that “government can regulate any speaker who would ‘counsel or advise a man‘ to commit an unlawful act.” In that same time, the Supreme Court ruled that government can punish all speech that has a tendency to encourage illegality. Fast forward 100 years though, and as of last June, the Supreme Court has unanimously re-established that “speech may not be banned on the ground that it expresses ideas that offend.”

On the contrary, Joan Vennochi says, “The First Amendment protects the speech we hate to hear.” As hard as it is to hear, that is true. Being able to speak your mind is really nice if you are the one expressing yourself but not always nice if you are the person being expressed to. However, there still needs to be a line drawn as to how hateful the speech can be before it becomes an issue.

Ultimately, many courts have decided that the exception to freedom of speech is when it is proven that the defendant said something they knew others would regard as threatening. The statement cannot be deemed as unconstitutional if it was a mistake or they were harassed into saying the statement. While there is still a gray area, and probably always will be, by having courts put parameters on what can and cannot be said regarding freedom of speech, states have some ability to limit to some protest by speech if offensive, which is definitely a step in the right direction.

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Hypocritical Supreme Court Harming Pregnant Women

Should the government allow pro-life advocates to freely protest in front of Planned Parenthood clinics without a barrier even if it means harassment of the patients?

Teen pregnancy, rape, defective birth control, or maybe just an accident. Abortions potentially play a major role in thousands, if not millions, of peoples lives. Some are pro-life while others are pro-choice, but how far can one group go to push their opinions onto others? When does pushy turn into dangerous? And how far can the government go to prevent protesters from going too far?

Pro-life vs Pro-choice is without a doubt one of the most prevalent hot topic issues we see today, but where does the Supreme Court draw the line between protection and freedom to protest. In Massachusetts, this was the essential question for many. A law that was enacted in 2007 created a 35-foot barrier zone outside entrances to planned parenthood abortion clinics as a response to a rich history of harassment and violence. Pro-life advocates were furious and challenged the law saying it violated the first amendment and their right to state their opinions and protest. Yet many of these pro-life advocates said that they were not protesters, but petitioners. The law denied them the right to do so.

On the other hand, it has been noted that these ‘petitioners’ aren’t always peaceful, in fact, they can get aggressive and violent fairly easily when they are disagreed with or can’t change the woman’s mind. This was also the main point that Massachusetts’ Planned Parenthood Clinic brought up in favor of the laws staying in the act. They brought up many past examples of violence targeted towards the Cilic, and even a shooting.

So how does the first amendment play into all of this, and how did the Supreme Court decision to go about such a sensitive topic? Well, this isn’t the first time that the Supreme Court has handled the buffer zone debate. According to NPR news, “Fourteen years ago, the court upheld Colorado’s 8-foot “floating” buffer zones around individuals to protect patients and staff entering and exiting these clinics. Since then, buffer zones have prevented demonstrators from closely approaching patients and staff without permission.” But this time around for the Massachusetts ruling the court wasn’t so liberal with their decision.

Although the Massachusetts situation is different in the sense that their buffer zone will not allow the demonstrators within 35 feet, the issue is still the same. Their situation closely resembles the same buffer zone issue in St. Louis, where the bill was rejected, according to KMOV4 News. But the border isn’t as long as is seems to be in Massachusetts, 35 feet is similarly the same size as an average school bus, and wouldn’t take more than 10 seconds to walk the full length of. It also allows anyone and everyone to walk through it, as long as they intend on entering the clinic or simply crossing over the buffer zone. The Supreme Court ended up ruling against the buffer zone due to it violating the petitioners right to protest. This didn’t settle well for Planned Parenthood leader Marty Walz, who thought the Court was being hypocritical. The Supreme Court has its own buffer zone, not allowing anyone to demonstrate, speak, or protest on his or her block. Or how there is a “150-foot buffer zone around any polling place on Election Day.”

Although the border does technically prevent some to their right of protest, is it worth the violence, the shootings, and the harassment of women going through one of the hardest decisions of their life? Should the Supreme Court be more lenient with the buffer zone, considering they too use it to their advantage? The buffer zone issue has little to nothing to do with people’s views on abortion, but how we view one another’s safety. You would think the Supreme Court would care more about the women’s lives that are potentially being put in danger than their views on whether or not abortion is right.

Totenberg, N. (2018). NPR Choice page. [online] Npr.org. Available at: https://www.npr.org/2013/12/20/255870199/supreme-court-considers-legality-of-abortion-clinic-buffer-zones [Accessed 29 Sep. 2018].

News, K. (2018). St. Louis aldermen reject bill to create a buffer zone around Planned Parenthood. [online] http://www.kmov.com. Available at: https://www.kmov.com/news/st-louis-aldermen-reject-bill-to-create-buffer-zone-around/video_479d0f52-c6a6-587a-9035-0ac79a3b1896.html [Accessed 29 Sep. 2018].

Flag Burning: Protected by the First Amendment or not?

Topic: Burning the Flag

Essential Question: Is the burning of the flag protected by the symbolic idea of the First Amendment? 

There have been many incidents of people burning the American flag during heated protesting. Many people view burning the flag as expressing their anger towards the government. Many do this act not because they hate America, but because they do not agree what the flag stands for.

On the other hand, non flag burners view this act as disrespectful not only to America, but to the hard working men and woman that sacrifice their life to keep us and our loved ones safe. To answer the questions above, yes burning the flag is protected by the First Amendment and you are entitled to your beliefs. For example, student protesters in Northwest Washington burned the flag through anger of our president Donald Trump. They were looked down upon by their school administration, but no legal action was taken against them because their actions were protected by the First Amendment. 

Even though the action of burning our flag is protected by the symbolic idea of the First Amendment, you are not only practicing your right to free speech, but you are blatantly disrespecting all the lives of people who have died protecting our flag and our right to the First Amendment.

Speech Codes: Are They a Scourge or a Savior to Free Speech?

Many people know the First Amendment: the right to expression, the right to peacefully assemble, freedom of the press, the right to petition the government, etcetera. However, not many people know where the boundaries of these rights lie. People push these boundaries all the time and right now college campuses are but one example. Administrators at colleges are attempting to enforce speech codes. Yet, does enforcing speech codes violate the right to free expression described in the First Amendment? How far can speech codes go before the contradict the rights to free expression and peaceful protesting described in the First Amendment?

There are many ways speech codes could be enforced. But depending on how they are applied, they could break the First Amendment. A few forms of expression, specifically in regards to free speech, that are not protected by the First Amendment are slander or libel, fighting words, and obscenity. This means that someone can not go in front of a crowd and defame, insult, threaten, or say anything that may be considered hate speech to someone without consequences. One example of hate speech can be seen in a video of Milo Yiannopoulous at UW Milwaukee. In this video, he verbally attacked and degraded a transgender student. They still were spoken with no point other than to make fun of a subject and way of life that Yiannopoulous did not agree with. Another example of hate speech and fighting words is threats. As stated by Ben Shapiro, some people “greeted the birth of [his] second child by calling for [him, his] wife, and two children to be thrown into a gas chamber”. There was no purpose to this statement other than to express a disagreement with his religion. Under the First Amendment, hate speech is not something you can say without consequences. Speech Codes cannot be used to prevent speakers with controversial opinions from speaking. They cannot prevent people from peacefully disagreeing and debating about topics. However, speech codes can apply consequences if that speech becomes hateful or slanderous since that speech would no longer be protected under the First Amendment.

Some Speech Codes are also attempting to limit the student’s right to peacefully protest a speaker. The First Amendment specifically says “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech, or the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble”. To restrict the right to peacefully assemble is a direct violation of the First Amendment. Yet, as seen on the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education website, also known as FIRE, some college campuses are restricting the student’s rights to peacefully assemble and protest on the grounds that they are disrupting the speaker’s right to freedom of speech. Furthermore, the Wisconsin Campus Free Speech Act states that “protests and demonstrations that interfere with the expressive rights of others are subject to sanction”. There must be a line drawn as to what qualifies as disruptive and interfering demonstrations. The line is whether or not there is any form of violence or hate speech. If a protester simply said the speaker was wrong, held signs, and argued about right versus wrong, nothing can be done about it because they are protesting peacefully, as the First Amendment says they can. However, if a protestor started doing damage or cursing out the speaker, then they would have to face consequences. Recently at UC Berkeley, protesters became very violent at a speech by Yiannopoulous and had to be escorted off the premises. UC Berkeley encompasses what a protest that is not protected by the First Amendment is, and what Speech Codes can restrict.

In the end, Speech codes can be useful to make speeches more peaceful and clearly define punishments for breaking that peace, however, they must still subject to the First Amendment.

Sources:

EBSCO: The New Battle Over Campus Free Speech

Milo Yiannopoulos verbally attacks a transgender student (1:30-3:05)

The Atlantic: The Glaring Evidence That Free Speech Is Threatened on Campus

Wisconsin Campus Free Speech Act

A few examples of Hate Speech against Ben Shapiro

Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE)

UC Berkeley

Dakota Access Pipeline & First Amendment

Written in the Bill Of Rights under the 1st amendment is freedom of speech. Included in this freedom of speech is, the right to have freedom of the press, and freedom of peaceable assemblies. Reporters see this as their right to give news reports on what they call the truth, but the government sees it as rioting and as of late, has been putting these reporters in jail or giving out tickets for trespassing. The North Dakota Access Pipeline as of late has been a very hot and controversial issue in our nation. It was a very big topic regarding our debates and president elections back in 2016. With Trump in control, we are likely to see this pipeline passed and built. This has gotten people all across the country riled up. Many people have traveled nationwide to protest in the Dakotas. Saying that it is land we owe to the SIoux and it is unavailable to build on.  Others think it is better for our economy and will lead to more jobs. Being one of the biggest controversies in our country right now, we also have the debate whether or not it infringes on the rights of the first amendment.  Part of that first amendment is, freedom of the press, the right to be protected as press for your work. As long as that work is not ‘fake news’. News teams have been going on to private land and giving reports on the pipeline and their protests. Some of these reports have given certain reporters a ticket from the police or even a spot in jail. The reason behind this is that they are trespassing on someone else’s land. The question behind this all is are they giving these reports unwarranted as a ‘rioting-like protest’  response to Trump’s new order or simply just doing news coverage.

I am neutral on this discussion, though. I believe that the pipeline was a good decision passed by President Trump and it will benefit our nation in many ways. I do not think the protesting by citizens will do anything though and all it is is a waste of their time. From the standpoint of the press vs. the government, I see both sides. The press is, in a way, protesting by giving these stories as most often given from the negative side of the pipeline, leaving out the possibilities the pipeline has to offer. This is seen by the government a form of protesting, falling under the category of rioting, which results in a ticket or if necessary, jail. To avoid the problems for both sides of the argument, reporters can give news on public land and give news more neutralized. Staying off private land avoiding the ticket, and making all sides happy by delivering news that is equalized.

Robert Vosper said…

“The Library is an open sanctuary. It is devoted to individual intellectual inquiry and contemplation. Its function is to provide free access to ideas and information. It is a haven of privacy, a source of both cultural and intellectual sustenance for the individual reader. Since it is thus committed to free and open inquiry on a personal basis, the Library must remain open, with access to it always guaranteed.”

Vosper (1913-1994) was an influential American librarian who taught at UCLA and Kansas University. He advocated for the thoughtful development of collections and international collaboration between libraries, including the development of multi-lingual collections.  He was the winner of the prestigious Joseph W. Lippincott Award and recognized by American Libraries as one of the Top 100 Librarians of the 20th Century.

In 1970, Vosper refused to close the doors of the UCLA library in response to anti-war protests, despite instructions to do so by university leadership.  Instead, he posted notice that the library would be considered a sanctuary devoted to the free access of information.