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Old 01-19-2004, 11:10 AM   #1 (permalink)
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A Note on Abortion protestors and Free Speech

It has been mentioned in the other thread that buffer zones around abortion clinics and the Secret Service's buffer zones around the president are the same thing.

I am posting to argue that they are not.


First, let me start by stating my position. I am a Christian who, after much much much thought has decided that the decision to have an abortion is a personal moral decision that is between the individual and God. Therefore I am prochoice.

I feel so strongly about this that I spent 4 years going down to a Planned Parenthood clinic to volunteer as a patient escort.


Now, let me tell you, if you haven't been in the trenches like I have, you have NO IDEA what some of these people are like or will do.


First, there was Scott.

Scott was a fundamentalist Christian who very strongly felt that the man was the God installed head of the house and woe to those who disagreed. Scott was in and out of jail several times for child abuse (beating his children with a belt) and later divorced. He was also caught going through the clinic's trash for unknown reasons.

My memories of Scott were of a middle aged guy with dark sandy hair and a mustache, a crazy stare and a perpetually clenched jaw where you could see the muscles working from 10 feet away.

The last image I have of him was standing on a ladder in the alley behind the clinic so he could see the patients in the parking lot and hold up a sign for them (the clinic had put up dark plastic sheets to shield the lot and entrance from the side walk bye this time.)


Next there was the Abortion lady. (I knew her name at one time but I forgot.)

This was the 40ish woman who had an abortion early in life (about 20) and then regretted it and found God (and the Catholic Church). She brought her 8 year old daughter to the clinic and was training her to shout along with her at the women entering.

The standard shout was, "You're killing your baby, you'll regret it later on!!" The thing was, she had a really annoying nasal twang. Couple that with HOURS of hearing her shout on a Saturday morning, well...


But best of all was Albert Garcia (yes, that's his name, I don't feel bad about putting it here since he is in the Denver paper and plenty of police records from that time).

Albert drove around in this white van that was painted with all these anti-abortion sayings along with plastic covered pictures of fetuses in formaldehyde. We loved Albert because he wasn't that educated and constantly embarassed the other side with his antics.

He would tell women and escorts how when we die there will be a great "garnishing" of teeth. I asked if the garnish would be radishes or carrot rosettes. He also liked to dress up in a Gorilla suit (yes, you heard right) and dance around, proclaiming that animals didn't kill their young (I told you he was ignorant).

But my favorite was when he drug out this Baby Jesus the King doll (the one where Jesus is 3 or 4 and has a Crown and Orb). Albert was convinced that the Orb would glow blue if the woman entering the clinic was carrying a boy or pink if a girl and then shout the fact to the woman.

Interestingly enough, he let if be known that sometimes the orb couldn't decide and went between the two colors, that meant that the baby was gay and on those occassions, he kept silent because a dead gay was ok.


Other short incidents:

-The local Orthodox priest who condemned me to Hell one day (I've since had other priests give me a get out of Hell card).

-The man who insisted on blocking the sidewalk and shouting in my face (about 5 inches) while I was escorting a woman in. (If he had stopped backpeddling, he would have been run over...I had a pretty good head of steam going).

-The CONSTANT picture taking. These people took pictures of everyone, and more importantly, their license plate numbers. Presumably for later harassment.

-The guy that told me that in God's eyes, women were no different than the egg shells that protect a chick (no, I'm not making this up.)


I almost left out the highlight of my service, the BIG Operation Rescue Day.

For our younger members who may not be aware, Operation Rescue was a big group that Operated in the 90's and their modus du guerre was to crawl en masse to a clinic and to chain themselves to the doors.

They caused much havoc in communities where the local police were somewhat sympathec to anti-abortionists (Wichita KS being a notible one.

Well, when they announced an OP RESC for Denver, the police when on high alert. And they decided they weren't EVEN going to encourage the continued chaos like Wichita did.

So we all found out the day, but they always played it cagy, having two or three possible targets and using radios and codes, they would switch routes and double back on themselves in school buses to keep the locals guessing.

But we knew: we were the target.

So we had our normal escort meeting that morning, but it was amongst police barracades and cops with a sherriff's bus around the corner.

Then the message came that they were on the way.

Sure enough they showed up and started their crawling, but again, this wasn't Wichita and the police didn't stand off to the side and do nothing.

No.

While we escorts retreated to a designated spot, the police came in on horses and with dogs and successfully kept about 50 crawlers from reaching the entrance of the clinic. They were hauled off and not a single appointment was cancelled.

And best of all, they didn't try it again in Denver because of the police response.


So in closing, yes, I see a HUGE difference in the two issues. If the abortion protesters had chosen to use their rights peacefully, then there would have been no problem. But they didn't. They used them to intimidate and harass.

The Bush protesters who do the same should get the same treatment. But those who are peaceful should be allowed in the same space as the supporters.
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Last edited by Lebell; 01-19-2004 at 11:15 AM..
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Old 01-19-2004, 11:29 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Re: A Note on Abortion protestors and Free Speech

Quote:
Originally posted by Lebell
Now, let me tell you, if you haven't been in the trenches like I have, you have NO IDEA what some of these people are like or will do.
The simple fact is that people are expressing their opinions in both groups. And both groups are told where they can do it. You may not like what the pro-life protesters have to say or the tones they use to say it, but that's part of free speech.

The reasons why these groups are isolated may be different or they may not be, I don't know. Have other protests of Bush been disruptive enough to warrant similar treatment?

The quote above yields another key point, the fact that "some" go to extremes should not mean that all have their rights infringed upon.
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Old 01-19-2004, 11:36 AM   #3 (permalink)
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I was willing to put up with listening to speech I didn't like.

What I wasn't willing to put up with was the walking crawl they did across the driveway, the picture taking (especially of our license plates) and the sidewalk blocking.

Unlike the Bush bruhaha, these protesters were moved across the street...not three miles away. They could still be heard and seen. They just couldn't physically get in your face anymore and try to block you.

That's a HUGE difference.
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Last edited by Lebell; 01-19-2004 at 11:45 AM..
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Old 01-19-2004, 11:40 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Strange but the Supreme Court agrees with Lebell.

http://usgovinfo.about.com/library/weekly/aa041601a.htm
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Old 01-19-2004, 11:55 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Location: NJ
Quote:
Originally posted by Lebell
I was willing to put up with listening to speech I didn't like.

What I wasn't willing to put up with was the walking crawl they did across the driveway, the picture taking (especially of our license plates) and the sidewalk blocking.

Unlike the Bush bruhaha, these protesters were moved across the street...not three miles away. They could still be heard and seen. They just couldn't physically get in your face anymore and try to block you.

That's a HUGE difference.
It does not change the result of the policies. They are both being told where they can protest. I am in no way defending the actions of abortion protesters I am simply pointing out that there have always been places/situations where protesters are told where they will be allowed to exercise their free speech rights.

In the other thread I also pointed to the example of protest marches being told to avoid certain areas where problems would be expected and the fact that you could not hold a protest in a court room without being forced to leave or sent to jail.
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Old 01-19-2004, 11:58 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally posted by Lebell
I was willing to put up with listening to speech I didn't like.

What I wasn't willing to put up with was the walking crawl they did across the driveway, the picture taking (especially of our license plates) and the sidewalk blocking.
I agree with Lebell here.

I can understand if protestors peacefully and respectfully informed people of their opinions. I don't feel they need to get physical, however. The exceptions I am willing to understand and accept are in the case of political action against government entities--but not against private citizens carrying out their personal actions.
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Old 01-19-2004, 12:06 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Re: A Note on Abortion protestors and Free Speech

Quote:
Originally posted by Lebell
So in closing, yes, I see a HUGE difference in the two issues. If the abortion protesters had chosen to use their rights peacefully, then there would have been no problem. But they didn't. They used them to intimidate and harass.
Quote:
A protest march of at least 1,500 demonstrators against war in Iraq turned violent Sunday in downtown Brussels when dozens of youths clashed with police and attacked American-owned businesses.
Quote:
Several young Jews were beaten by Arabs during a massive anti-war demonstration in Paris, the lastest attack in a wave of anti-Semitic violence in France over the past two years.
Quote:
Demonstrators opposed to the leaders' agenda took their sometimes-violent march through downtown Ottawa and onto Parliament Hill where their numbers peaked at over 1,000.
Quote:
German police turned water cannons on school students outside the US consulate today during their first clashes with demonstrators protesting against the war in Iraq.

Violence erupted when some protesters broke off from a peaceful march of about 20,000 pupils in Hamburg and headed to the US consulate, where police said Palestinians armed with wooden sticks joined them and began attacking police securing the building.
Quote:
In New York City, around 100,000 people marched at lunchtime from Times Square to Greenwich Village's Washington Square Park, filling 20 city blocks.

A few clashes took place as police chased and surrounded a small group who broke away from the main march.
Quote:
WHY SMASH THE WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM?

The World Economic Forum is an exclusive, invite-only organization composed of political leaders, trade ministers and corporate CEOs from around the world. Incorporated in 1971, the WEF acts as a 'think tank' and driving force behind the global economy. The WEF's summits allow the richest and most powerful corporations in the world to mingle with trade representatives from nations, and with each other, to make business deals and determine the global political and economic policies. The economic and political elites who come together at the WEF are neither elected public officials nor concerned philanthropists looking to aid the poor and disadvantaged of the world. They are capitalist scum looking for new markets to exploit and faster ways to turn a profit, completely unaccountable to the public.

DISRUPTIVE PROTEST IS ONLY THE BEGINNING...
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Old 01-19-2004, 12:06 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally posted by smooth
I agree with Lebell here.

I can understand if protestors peacefully and respectfully informed people of their opinions. I don't feel they need to get physical, however. The exceptions I am willing to understand and accept are in the case of political action against government entities--but not against private citizens carrying out their personal actions.
I think I see where we are differentiating things. It seems that you and lebell are focusing on the reasons for the relocation of protesters. I am focusing solely on the fact that it is something that happens in other situations and that the relocation of protesters does not necessarily mean that their right to free speech has been violated in some way.

I'm not clear on your point of view as far as the last line however. It seems (to my reading of it) to convey that you believe the right to free speech is somehow different if you are protesting the government versus an inidividual? Is that what you meant or did it just come across that way in the reading of it?
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Old 01-19-2004, 12:38 PM   #9 (permalink)
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I see a difference between moving a group across the street which is known for denying access to a facility so they can still protest without being a hazard. The people trying to get into the PP have rights too, we need to create balance for both.

The situation where protesters with signs are moved a quarter mile away behind a stadium in a fenced off square, that is a ludicrous caricature of a security measure.

It is a normal procedure to fence off a route the president takes so protesters and the public are not allowed to get dangerously or disruptively close to him, but moving them a quarter mile away only serves the purpose of stifling free speech.
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Old 01-19-2004, 12:45 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally posted by Superbelt

It is a normal procedure to fence off a route the president takes so protesters and the public are not allowed to get dangerously or disruptively close to him, but moving them a quarter mile away only serves the purpose of stifling free speech.
What could'nt they say?
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Old 01-19-2004, 12:49 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Not that they couldn't say, but that they couldn't be heard.

Yes, I also look at the distances involved.
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Old 01-19-2004, 01:03 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally posted by Lebell
Not that they couldn't say, but that they couldn't be heard.

Yes, I also look at the distances involved.
You have the right of free speech. You have no right to be heard. If you want to hear the protestors go hear them, if you want to hear the president, go hear him.
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Old 01-19-2004, 01:22 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally posted by Ustwo
You have the right of free speech. You have no right to be heard. If you want to hear the protestors go hear them, if you want to hear the president, go hear him.
Unless you're a member of the press, and then you aren't allowed to talk to the protestors...

Lebell, my grandmother's husband was an escort, I applaud you for what you do.
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Old 01-19-2004, 01:31 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally posted by Sparhawk
Unless you're a member of the press, and then you aren't allowed to talk to the protestors...
Now we are getting to something more meaningful.

I've heard this as well but no details. Is it that once you are in the designated area people can't come and go? Is it only the press? Can they talk to them after the event?
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Old 01-19-2004, 09:16 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally posted by Ustwo
You have the right of free speech. You have no right to be heard. If you want to hear the protestors go hear them, if you want to hear the president, go hear him.
onetime2,

You read me correctly, I was distinguishing between individuals and government entities.

People do have the right to be heard by the government--that's the point of having free speech. Free speech without a commensurate right to be heard by our government (who's sole responsibility is to respond to the needs and demands of its population) would be a pretty silly right to possess.

Individuals, on the other hand, do not have an obligation to address the demands and needs of other citizens--they possess their own rights to conduct their own affairs wihout molestation.

This is why I draw a distinction between the two. I see the Bill of Rights as a contract between the people and a new form of government they were creating--not a document governing relations between citizens. That should be left to the local government agencies, which are closer to their constituents and better able to represent individual needs and demands.

BTW, I feel the protestors have a right to be heard by the President. He has an obligation to hear their appeal.

Last edited by smooth; 01-19-2004 at 09:20 PM..
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Old 01-19-2004, 09:51 PM   #16 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally posted by smooth

BTW, I feel the protestors have a right to be heard by the President. He has an obligation to hear their appeal.
This is the US, and GWB is not a king to hear the pleas of the peasants once a fortnight. The president is questioned constantly at press conferences, and you hear what he has to say in dozens and dozens of speeches. If enough people don't like him for whatever reason, he can be voted out. Just because you can shout a slogan and hold a Bush=Hitler sign doesn't mean he has to give you his time, and quite frankly he isn't going to change your mind and you aren’t going to change his. If you really want to talk to someone you are suppose to go to your house representative and state senators. This is how a republic works.
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Old 01-19-2004, 10:17 PM   #17 (permalink)
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You're inspiring lebell!

I agree that there is a difference. Abortion protesters often seem determined to deny the privacy and medical care of the patients involved. Whereas i've been to many protests where the main point is to make a public fuss and attempt to draw attention to percieved injustice. I've never been to an anti-police brutality demo where the names and adresses of police officers are given out for posting on the web and other such harassment. Granted there are fanatics involved in every protest. I'd find it amusing if clinic protestor were forced to yell their taunts from even a half mile away.
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Old 01-19-2004, 10:29 PM   #18 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally posted by Ustwo
This is the US, and GWB is not a king to hear the pleas of the peasants once a fortnight. The president is questioned constantly at press conferences, and you hear what he has to say in dozens and dozens of speeches. If enough people don't like him for whatever reason, he can be voted out. Just because you can shout a slogan and hold a Bush=Hitler sign doesn't mean he has to give you his time, and quite frankly he isn't going to change your mind and you aren’t going to change his. If you really want to talk to someone you are suppose to go to your house representative and state senators. This is how a republic works.
Hmm, Bill of Rights, Article 1

Quote:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
I see no limits enumerated there. Bush is no king, he is an employee. He is our employee and we have the right to see him wherever he goes and to make our grievances known at all times. Where we have a right to petition him as much as possible, he has none to protect himself from such petitions.

See also that our government has NO CONSTITUTIONAL ABILITY to abridge the right of the people to peaceably assemble.

Also the President is not questioned constantly, his staffers are. Our presidents have a poor track record of putting themselves in the line of fire for press questioning. At least compared to most other developed nations.

Most protesters are not there to change the presidents mind directly. They are there to be seen and be heard by him and the press. The Vietnam war protests brought that war to an end much faster than it would have without them, and if Kennedy hadn't been shot, even quicker. The protests were instrumental in Kennedys decision to bring the war to an end, they were turning public opinion against him. Lyndon, of course reversed that.
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Old 01-20-2004, 04:33 AM   #19 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally posted by smooth
onetime2,

You read me correctly, I was distinguishing between individuals and government entities.

People do have the right to be heard by the government--that's the point of having free speech. Free speech without a commensurate right to be heard by our government (who's sole responsibility is to respond to the needs and demands of its population) would be a pretty silly right to possess.

Individuals, on the other hand, do not have an obligation to address the demands and needs of other citizens--they possess their own rights to conduct their own affairs wihout molestation.

This is why I draw a distinction between the two. I see the Bill of Rights as a contract between the people and a new form of government they were creating--not a document governing relations between citizens. That should be left to the local government agencies, which are closer to their constituents and better able to represent individual needs and demands.

BTW, I feel the protestors have a right to be heard by the President. He has an obligation to hear their appeal.
Thanks for clarifying. Do you think this is the way it is now, or the way it "should" be? If it's the latter, that might be an interesting topic for it's own thread. If it's the former, I have to say I disagree.

Free speech currently applies beyond just voicing oposition (or support) for government. Protests occur against/for corporations, private groups, and private individuals all the time. So long as it doesn't cross the line into libel, you can say what you want about anyone/anything in the US right now.

I don't feel protesters have a "right to be heard" by the President. It doesn't spell that out in the Constitution and they certainly have other methods of voicing their opinions to the President beyond pickets and protests (still there's no guarantee that they'll be heard). They can write letters, get petitions together, take out ads in newspapers & magazines, and, of course, not vote for him when he's up for re-election.
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Old 01-20-2004, 05:16 AM   #20 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally posted by smooth

...Free speech without a commensurate right to be heard by our government (who's sole responsibility is to respond to the needs and demands of its population) would be a pretty silly right to possess...
Welcome to the planet earth.
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Old 01-20-2004, 07:58 AM   #21 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally posted by Superbelt
[B]Hmm, Bill of Rights, Article 1


I see no limits enumerated there. Bush is no king, he is an employee. He is our employee and we have the right to see him wherever he goes and to make our grievances known at all times. Where we have a right to petition him as much as possible, he has none to protect himself from such petitions.
Pardon? Petition does not mean vocally bitch to the cameras and disrupt events. No one is stopping people from gong to proper channels. No one is saying you can't talk to your senators. No one is saying you can't assemble. All they are saying is you can't do it HERE.

pe·ti·tion n.

1. A solemn supplication or request to a superior authority; an entreaty.
2. A formal written document requesting a right or benefit from a person or group in authority.
3. Law.
1. A formal written application requesting a court for a specific judicial action: a petition for appeal.
2. The judicial action asked for in any such request.
4. Something requested or entreated.

No one is stopping it.


Quote:
See also that our government has NO CONSTITUTIONAL ABILITY to abridge the right of the people to peaceably assemble.
Actually its the Congress that doesn't have the right, but again, people are allowed to assemble, they are not allowed to be disruptive. What they are afraid of is having a protest and no one covering it.

Quote:
Also the President is not questioned constantly, his staffers are. Our presidents have a poor track record of putting themselves in the line of fire for press questioning. At least compared to most other developed nations.
The president needs to have time to BE president, not listen to an endless stream of complaints, which every president would get from Washington to Bush. Even so I've seen Bush answer a hell of a lot of direct questions, maybe you want the president to answer even more, I want him doing his JOB.

Quote:
Most protesters are not there to change the presidents mind directly. They are there to be seen and be heard by him and the press. The Vietnam war protests brought that war to an end much faster than it would have without them, and if Kennedy hadn't been shot, even quicker. The protests were instrumental in Kennedys decision to bring the war to an end, they were turning public opinion against him. Lyndon, of course reversed that.
Pure speculation about Kennedy. He was afraid of being 'soft on communism' and I doubt he would have ended it. You vastly overestimate the protest movement if you think it was a big deal by 63. Kennedy might not have been as big a clusterfuck about it as Johnson, who was the worst president in modern history in terms of long term foreign policy and domestic policy, but ending it was far from a guarantee. Its also moot, because YOU CAN PROTEST ALL YOU WANT. If you were not allowed to protest I'd be bitching with the rest of you, but thats not what you are complaining about. You are complaining that protestors are not allowed to disrupt the president and get free camera time. You can still petition the government (note it does NOT say president), you can still assemble, you can go on tv, you can make adds that say Bush = Hitler, you can do whatever you fucking want, but you get to do it out of bullhorn range.

Quote:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
Nothing of the above has been violated. It may not be what you want, and what you want is 200 people shouting down Bush everywhere he goes.
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Old 01-20-2004, 09:36 AM   #22 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally posted by onetime2
Thanks for clarifying. Do you think this is the way it is now, or the way it "should" be? If it's the latter, that might be an interesting topic for it's own thread. If it's the former, I have to say I disagree.

Free speech currently applies beyond just voicing oposition (or support) for government. Protests occur against/for corporations, private groups, and private individuals all the time. So long as it doesn't cross the line into libel, you can say what you want about anyone/anything in the US right now.

I don't feel protesters have a "right to be heard" by the President. It doesn't spell that out in the Constitution and they certainly have other methods of voicing their opinions to the President beyond pickets and protests (still there's no guarantee that they'll be heard). They can write letters, get petitions together, take out ads in newspapers & magazines, and, of course, not vote for him when he's up for re-election.
I think that how I explained the function of free speech is the minimum of how it should be. Our courts have constistently ruled that political speech has special status in regards to this right. The sticky point might be that abortion protestors feel they [i]are[/b] voicing political views.

In cases where the courts must strike a balance between the rights of protestors versus those of the clinic patients, I think that examining the intent of the framers is instructive. My understanding is that they wrote the constitution to govern citizens' relations with the government--not each other. Individual interactions are governed by local ordinances and civil law. Not until a good hundred and fifty years later did the courts start applying its rulings to individual relationships.

I'm TAing a federal law enforcement class right now so I can ask the professor if my perspective is historically correct. Also, my buddy is a constitutional scholar so I'll run it by him, too.

I don't want to get into a semantic debate about the right to speak versus the right to be heard. It appears to me that our framers figured that the latter is reasonably inferred from the former. Limiting where and when one can speak effectively nullifies one's voice.

EDIT:

I should clarify my point of the right to be heard. I don't mean that protestors (or supporters) have a right to walk into a room and be heard by the president. But they do have a right to stand in a public venue and feel as though their voice has a chance of being heard.

If I'm going to a particular public venue to express my outrage at a political decision but know I will be cordoned off into some area out of earshot or eyesight of the person who's opinion I'm trying to change, I might as well just stay home and yell at the sky for all the good my right to "speak" is going to do me.

I should also clarify that government's ultimate (instead of sole) responsibility is to the people. It obviously has other functions than responding to us. My point, however, was that it ultimately can not do anything the people do not want. In theory, at least, government is a function of the aggregate will of the people--not a distinct entity. As a result of it being an extension of the will of the people, some scholars argue that government can't possibly operate against their will. Others, however, claim that it can go awry and that the people then have a duty to correct its course of action.

I think this point would be a far more interesting theoretical debate on the role and operation of our government structure.

Last edited by smooth; 01-20-2004 at 09:55 AM..
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