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California man sues town following arrest at public meeting – October 2018

Chico, CA

During the public-comment phase of a Chico City Council meeting, a local resident approached the podium and began speaking about a member of the local community. He was arrested and removed from the meeting.

Key Players

Mark Herrera is a resident of Chico, a town of nearly 94,000 in northern California. Herrera is a former park commissioner for the city and a one-time candidate for city council.

The Chico City Council is an elected body, with seven nonpartisan members. Sean Morgan is mayor of Chico, and presides over council meetings.

Chico First is a community group that advocates for “public safety.” According to its Facebook page, some of its specific projects are related to “shopping cart” and “locking dumpster” initiatives. It hopes to address issues presented by homelessness in the community.

Further Details

On May 15, 2018, Mark Herrera attended a Chico City Council meeting. During the public-comment period, he rose to speak about Chico First, which was represented at the meeting by some of its members.

According to The Chico Enterprise-Record, Herrera at one point referred to the leader of the Chico First group in a way that, according to mayor Sean Morgan, bordered on a personal attack. Herrera later stated that his comment was intended to be satirical, and that he was merely poking fun at the group.

Following further comments by Herrera, Morgan ordered that he be detained, and two Chico police officers approached Herrera to escort him out of the meeting. Herrera ignored them, however, and was ultimately arrested for “wilfully disturbing a public meeting.” At the police station, he was found to have a high blood alcohol level on a breathalyzer test. Nevertheless, the Butte County District Attorney’s Office chose not to press charges

Outcome

Herrera sues city of Chico

Herrera filed a civil complaint in federal court on October 11, 2018. He claimed his First and Fourth Amendment rights were violated during this incident. He named Morgan, the city of Chico, the Chico Police Department, and several individual police officers as defendants in the case. Herrera claims that Morgan violated his rights to freedom of expression and to petition the government when Morgan “unlawfully imposed a content-based restriction to silence [him] and preclude him from further speaking.” The city of Chico has declined to comment on active litigation as of October 20, 2018.

City denies having violated Herrera’s rights

Responding to Herrera’s lawsuit, the city of Chico said police had probable and reasonable cause to detain and arrest him, according to court documents filed on November 4, 2018. The city also denied allegations it violated Herrera’s First and Fourth Amendment rights and demanded a jury trial.

 

External References

Chico man sues city over arrest during City Council meeting, The Chico Enterprise-Record

Chico police detained man for disrupting city council meeting, KRCR News Channel

Chico man sues city, mayor, Chico News & Review

Chico First Facebook page

Prepared by Emma Vahey ‘20

Uploaded to Tracker: November 14, 2018

 

Free Speech in Civil Society graphic

Trump lawyers defend release of stolen emails on First Amendment grounds – October 2018

Richmond, VA

Lawyers representing President Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign filed a motion to dismiss in Roy Cockrum et al. vs. Donald J Trump for President Inc. The plaintiffs in the case allege that Trump campaign operatives engaged in conspiracy by violating privacy rights and subjecting them to intentional emotional distress by helping publish and disseminate emails stolen during a hack of the Democratic National Committee. Lawyers representing the Trump campaign offered the First Amendment as a defense of the operatives’ actions, arguing that the information contained in the emails, being of national interest, outweighed any privacy claims.

Key Players

Donald J. Trump for President Inc. was the campaign organization created to elect Donald Trump during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Operatives for the campaign allegedly conspired with Wikileaks and Russian hackers to release private emails that had been stolen when the hackers infiltrated the Democratic National Committee’s computer network.

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) is the national political organisation for the Democratic party. Workers for the DNC allege that their privacy was violated and they were intentionally subjected to emotional distress when private emails were released on the Wikileaks platform leading up to the 2016 elections.

Wikileaks is an online news source that publishes secret information and leaks provided by anonymous sources. Russian hackers sent emails they had stolen to Wikileaks for publication before the 2016 elections.

Further Details

According to Robert Mueller’s federal investigation, twelve Russian operatives hacked into the DNC computer network in 2016 and stole private emails from its employees. Plaintiffs in this case allege that the subsequent release of the emails violated the privacy of several DNC employees and subjected them to intentional emotional distress. Lawyers representing Trump’s campaign committee, however, argue that campaign workers simply assisted with the dissemination of the stolen information, which they argue is protected by the First Amendment.

In their motion to dismiss the lawsuit, Trump’s lawyers cite the “Bartnicki test” from Bartnicki v. Vopper of 2001, which holds that the First Amendment protects the disclosure of stolen information under two conditions: first, that the disseminator was not involved in the theft of the information, and second, that the information is relevant to “a matter of public concern.” Regarding the plaintiff’s allegations, the motion says, “at a minimum, both violate the First Amendment as applied to the kind of speech at issue here—truthful speech in a campaign.”

Trump’s lawyers argue that they did not assist with stealing the emails, only with their dissemination, according to the findings of Robert Mueller’s investigation. And they say the content of the emails was of public interest, so that releasing them was protected by the First Amendment. “The First Amendment ‘has its fullest and most urgent application to speech uttered during the campaign for political office,’” the lawyers argued, quoting from Eu v. San Francisco County Democratic Cent. Comm. of 1989. Through the Bartnicki test, the Trump campaign contended that to punish the dissemination of the stolen emails would be a violation of the First Amendment.

Outcome

A specific court date has not been set for a hearing on the motion in US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. The case was previously dismissed by a federal court in Washington, DC, for lack of jurisdiction.

External References

Opening brief in support of defendant Donald J. Trump for President, Inc.’s Motion to Dismiss.

The Trump Campaign says exploiting hacked emails is free speech.

District of Columbia Court decision to dismiss the case for lack of jurisdiction.

Eastern District of Virginia Court Schedules – Richmond Division.

Prepared by Gustav Honl-Stuenkel ‘20

Date uploaded to tracker: November 8, 2018

Free Speech in Civil Society graphic

National Park Service seeks to restrict White House protests – August 2018

Washington, D.C.

After consistent protest outside the White House during Donald Trump’s presidency, the National Park Service proposed limits on demonstrations there and in other iconic Washington venues, including the National Mall. Critics, such as the American Civil Liberties Union, pushed back, arguing that such restrictions are unconstitutional.

Further Details

Protests outside the White House have been frequent during Trump’s presidency, and grew even more common after his July 2018 summit in Helsinki, Finland, with Russian leader Vladimir Putin. Protesters occupied the sidewalks outside the White House for at least three weeks after the summit, according to The Washington Post, and used the opportunity to attempt to hold Trump accountable on a range of issues.

In August 2018, the National Park Service (NPS) — housed in the Department of the Interior — proposed to limit the number of protests on the north sidewalk in front of the White House, the National Mall, Lafayette Square, and the sidewalk in front of the Trump International Hotel, among other places, according to Fortune.

The proposal would close 80 percent of the sidewalks around the White House to demonstrations, according to The Guardian, limiting them to a five-foot-wide section on Pennsylvania Avenue. The proposed policy would also open the door to requiring protestors to pay “event management” fees to cover the cost of barriers, cleanup, and necessary security personnel.

The aim, in part, is also to “preserve an atmosphere of contemplation” around national memorials, according to Fortune, as well as to protect the grass on the Mall. Additionally, the proposed policy would allow the NPS greater time to work out logistics before granting event permits, Fortune reported, which would limit spontaneous demonstrations.

The proposed limits on demonstration come amid Trump’s historical antipathy to protest. In the past, Trump has suggested that those who protest against him are paid by prominent Democratic Party donors, as he wrote in a Oct. 5 tweet during the confirmation hearings of Justice Brett Kavanaugh:

“The very rude elevator screamers are paid professionals only looking to make Senators look bad,” Trump wrote. “Don’t fall for it! Also, look at all of the professionally made identical signs. Paid for by Soros and others” (an allusion to financier George Soros, the object of many conspiracy theories circulating on social media about the origins of anti-Trump protests).

Trump has also said in the past that protesting should be illegal, according to the Washington Post.

“I think it’s embarrassing for the country to allow protesters,” Trump said in a Sept. 4 Oval Office interview. “You don’t even know what side the protesters are on.”

Outcome

Proposal to limit protest faces backlash

The NPS faced backlash on the proposed policy, particularly from critics who saw it as an infringement on Free Speech. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) pointed out that such restrictions have the ability to hamper demonstrations by raising costs.

“Managing public lands for the benefit of the American people” — whether demonstrators or tourists — “is what Congress funds the National Park Service to do,” said Arthur Spitzer, legal director of the ACLU of the District of Columbia, in a post on the ACLU’s blog. “While the Park Service may be strapped for funds, it cannot balance its budget on the backs of people seeking to exercise their constitutional rights.”

The ACLU also cited the numerous historic protests that have occurred in these spaces. New limitations “could make mass protests like Martin Luther King Jr’s historic 1963 March on Washington and its ‘I have a dream’ speech too expensive to happen,” Spitzer wrote.

NPS hosted a 60-day public comment period, which ran until Oct. 15 and drew more than 41,000 responses, according to the Washington Post. A spokesman for NPS said it could take several months to finish a report on public sentiment and reaction. The ACLU submitted a formal complaint as well, arguing that the proposal violates the First Amendment.

“We’re just looking to have a genuine conversation with the public about updating this comprehensive plan,” NPS spokesperson Brent Everitt said, according to the Post.

Constitutional experts have said the proposed policy would likely not be upheld if challenged in court, because of its potentially chilling effect on people’s exercise of their First Amendment rights, the Post reported.

“President Trump might not like having protesters on his doorstep, but the First Amendment guarantees their right to be there,” Spitzer wrote.

External References

Mixing protest and party, nightly ‘Kremlin Annex’ rally outside the White House reaches its third week, The Washington Post

The Trump Administration’s Latest Idea to Hit Back at Its Opponents: Charge Them for Protesting, Fortune

Pressure builds as National Park Service considers proposals to change how protests are done in D.C., The Washington Post

Trump administration plans crackdown on protests outside White House, The Guardian

Trump Administration Seeks to Stifle Protests Near White House and on National Mall, ACLU

No, George Soros isn’t paying Kavanaugh protesters, Washington Post

Trump suggests that protesting should be illegal, Washington Post

Prepared by Maya Gandhi ’20

Uploaded November 4, 2018

 

Free Speech in Civil Society graphic

Court rules in favor of Oregon police officer prevented from commenting on racial profiling – September 2018

Springfield, OR

In February 2015, Thelma Barone, then multicultural liaison for the police department of Springfield, OR, made a public comment about racial profiling within the police force. The department suspended Barone before offering her a “last-chance agreement,” whereby she could return to the force if she promised not to say anything negative about the police or the city in writing or speech. Barone refused this offer, and a subsequent one, and, as a consequence, was fired. She then filed a federal lawsuit, contending that she had been the victim of retaliation for speaking out, but lost in the trial court and appealed that decision. In September 2018, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals determined that the restrictions against Barone had violated her Free Speech and sent the case back to a federal judge in Eugene, OR .

Key Players

Thelma Barone was the multicultural liaison for the Springfield Police Department for 13 years; as such, she served as the primary bridge between the police and Springfield’s Latino community. She worked to establish relationships between the police department and communities of color. Following public remarks about the police force and subsequent controversy, she was terminated from her position in August 2015.

The Springfield Police Department serves a city of about 60,000 people just outside Eugene, OR. The current Chief of Police is Richard Lewis. In 2015, at the time of the incident, the Chief of Police was Tim Doney.

Further Details

In February 2015, Thelma Barone was a scheduled speaker for an event at the local Springfield City Club. The event’s focus was on police brutality and racial profiling, a salient topic given the anti-police-brutality protests taking place at the time in Ferguson, MO. Barone was asked whether she had heard of increased racial profiling by the police in the Springfield community, and she answered in the affirmative.

A week later, Police Chief Tim Doney placed Barone on administrative leave for the seemingly unrelated reason of “alleged untruthfulness during investigations in previous cases.” An internal investigation determined that she had violated parts of the department’s code of conduct by allowing teenagers to photograph restricted areas during a tour. According to Barone, in July 2015 officials in both the police department and the police union ordered that she sign a “last-chance agreement.” If she refused, she would be fired.

The agreement stipulated that she would not publicly say anything disparaging about Springfield or its police department. Further, it detailed that she would no longer serve as the liaison with the local Latino community. After Barone refused to sign this document, the officials returned with an amended version that would have allowed her to report on and track racial profiling or racial discrimination complaints, but kept her gag order in place.

But Barone rejected that offer as well, and was fired on August 12, 2015, as a result. Without income, Barone ultimately lost her house. Now 61, she says it would be too difficult to return to the force. Instead, she is pursuing a master’s degree in social work. Following her termination in mid-2015, she filed a lawsuit in federal court against the city of Springfield and its police department for allegedly firing her on false pretenses and retaliating against her for speaking publicly against the department.

 

Outcome

Appeals court rules in favor of Barone

In September 2018, The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled in favor of Barone, overturning a previous ruling against her. The court clarified that although her comments at the public meeting in February 2018 were not protected speech under the First Amendment, the “last-chance agreement” restricted her speech as a private citizen, and therefore was unconstitutional.

External References

Attempt to silence Oregon police officer violated First Amendment, court says, The Oregonian

Court: Attempt to silence officer violated First Amendment, The Associated Press

Thelma Barone v. City of Springfield, Public Document

Free Speech Prevails: Former Springfield police aide wins First Amendment case against Springfield, Eugene Weekly

Federal appeals court reverses decision about fired Springfield police employee, The Bulletin

Prepared by Emma Vahey ‘20

Uploaded to tracker: 10/29/2018

Free Speech in Civil Society graphic

Connecticut mayor orders Libertarian activists removed from public park following solicitation for signatures – April 2018

Meriden, CT

On April 28, 2018, the mayor of a Connecticut town ordered members of the local Libertarian Party and a Libertarian candidate to leave a public park. The group had gathered to collect signatures in order to get their candidate on the statewide ballot for an upcoming election.

Key Players

Kevin Scarpati is the mayor of Meriden, CT, a town with a population of about 61,000 in central Connecticut. He is registered as an unaffiliated voter, although he was formerly registered as a Republican before running for the town’s mayoral office in 2017.

Dan Reale is the Connecticut state chair of the Libertarian Party. He filed a Connecticut Superior Court lawsuit in May 2018 on behalf of the political volunteers in the park on that day in April, naming Kevin Scarpati as the defendant.

The Libertarian Party is an American political movement, citing “minimum government” and “maximum freedom” as two of its most valued tenets. Volunteers for the Connecticut Libertarian Party were in the park on the day in question, stumping on behalf of Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Rod Hanscomb.

Further Details

On April 28, 2018, the annual Meriden Daffodil Festival was held in Hubbard Park, in Meriden, CT. Many community organizations and members attend the event every year. At the 2018 festival, volunteers for Rod Hanscomb for Governor — among them Reale — stood near the entrance, collecting signatures on petitions to add Hanscomb to the ballot. Scarpati happened to walk past the volunteers and, soon after, a police officer asked the them to leave.

Following this incident, Reale filed a lawsuit in Connecticut Superior Court. He claimed his First Amendment rights to free speech and assembly were violated because Scarpati had the volunteers removed from the park out of political motivations. Reale noted that both the local Republican and Democrat parties had a presence at the same festival, but did not face similar actions. He also said he had called the Meriden police department after leaving the park in order to determine what might happen if the volunteers were to return and continue their efforts. “The desk sergeant informed him he would be arrested for ‘first degree’ criminal trespass,” the lawsuit alleged.

Outcome

Case settled out of court

On September 28, 2018, the city of Meriden settled the case with Dan Reale and the Libertarian Party for $37,000. The Libertarian Party, which had joined the case as an additional plaintiff, received $32,000, and $5,000 went to Dan Reale as a private individual.

External References

‘Go After The First Amendment, You’ll Pay The Price’ — $37K To Settle Lawsuit Against Meriden Mayor, Hartford Courant

Legal Mess Endures Months After Meriden Mayor Had Cops Oust Libertarians From Park, Hartford Courant

Libertarian party candidate files suit over alleged incident at Meriden’s Daffodil Festival, Record-Journal

Meriden Office of the Mayor webpage

Prepared by Emma Vahey ‘20

Uploaded to Tracker: October 15, 2018

Free Speech in Civil Society graphic

Satanic statue unveiled at Arkansas capitol to protest Christian monument – August 2018

Little Rock, AR

A satanic statue, sponsored by the Satanic Temple, an atheist group, was unveiled at the Arkansas state capitol building in protest of a monument to the Ten Commandments that had been erected at the site in 2017. This move mirrors a similar case in Oklahoma, where in 2015 the state supreme court ruled the erection of a biblical statue in front of the state capitol unconstitutional.

Key Players

The Satanic Temple is a group made up of atheists, humanists, and Free Speech advocates, according to The Washington Post. Founded in 2012, it currently has 15 chapters in the United States. Despite its name, the association does not require satanic worship, but uses satanic imagery to highlight what it feels are violations of the principle of the constitutional separation of church and state.

The movement gained notoriety in 2013, when it proposed an eight-foot-tall bronze statue of the satanic goat monster, Baphomet, to sit next to a Ten Commandments monument that had been built in front of the Oklahoma State Capitol a year earlier. In July 2015, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that the Ten Commandments statue was illegal and would have to be removed, since it used public lands to support a specific religion.

The Satanic Temple lauded that decision and dropped its plans to install its own statue. But, in doing so, it left its newly created statue of Baphomet without a home. “Arkansas looks rather appealing,” answered Satanic Temple spokesman Doug Menser, when asked by the Post where the statue might end up.

Further Details

In April 2015, the Arkansas state legislature had passed a bill authorizing a privately funded Ten Commandments statue at the steps of the state capitol building in Little Rock. In response, the Satanic Temple made plans to install there the Baphomet statue that had almost found a home in Oklahoma.

A monument to the Ten Commandments was installed on the grounds of the Arkansas State Capitol in June 2017, but was destroyed within 24 hours when a man rammed his car into it. The monument was replaced in April 2018, after private fundraising efforts by Arkansas State Senator Jason Rapert, a Republican who sponsored the original bill to erect the Ten Commandments monument.

The Temple’s plans to install the goat statue were blocked in 2017 by a bill the Arkansas state legislature passed in an emergency session. The bill required all monuments at the capitol building to have legislative sponsorship, according to the Post.

Unable to find a state legislator to sponsor the installation of Baphomet at the state capitol, the Temple launched a crowdfunding campaign to transport it to Little Rock, and raised its $20,000 goal without difficulty, the Post said.

Rapert said he “respects” individuals’ free speech rights under the First Amendment, but that “it will be a very cold day in hell before an offensive statue will be forced upon us to be permanently erected on the grounds of the Arkansas State Capitol,” NPR reports.

Outcome

Baphomet is unveiled at the Arkansas Capitol Building

On Thursday, August 16, 2018, Baphomet was unveiled in a temporary spot at the Arkansas statehouse to 150 cheering participants of a “First Amendment Rally.” Several counter-protesters also gathered at the capitol building, many holding Bible verses or signs that indicated they disapproved of the satanic statue.

Because the statue cannot stay at the capitol, Baphomet’s arrival has become, in effect, a temporary protest of the Ten Commandments monument, rather than a permanent installation. At the end of the protest, the Satanic Temple removed the statue, according to the AP.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) supports the Satanic Temple in its opposition to the Ten Commandments monument, and is seeking to join a lawsuit by the Arkansas chapter of the ACLU arguing that the biblical statue is discriminatory and unconstitutional, according to NPR.

External References

The Satanic Temple’s giant statue of a goat-headed god is looking for a home, The Washington Post

Why one man keeps ramming his car into Ten Commandments statues on government property, The Washington Post

A satanic idol goes to the Arkansas Capitol building, The Washington Post

Satanic Temple Protests Ten Commandments Monument With Goat-Headed Statue, NPR

Satanic Temple installs goat-headed creature at Arkansas state capitol, AP

Prepared by Maya Gandhi ’20

Uploaded October 8, 2018

 

Free Speech in Civil Society graphic

Pro-life organization blocked from public sidewalk – September 2018

Rochester, NY

Members of a pro-life organization, ROC Sidewalk Advocates, were blocked from being on public sidewalks near a Planned Parenthood clinic in Rochester, NY. The city cited a 2005 federal injunction as the basis for enforcing this prohibition.

Key Players

The Thomas More Society is a national public interest law firm headquartered in in Chicago. According to its mission statement, it is a nonprofit “dedicated to restoring respect in law for life, family, and religious liberty.”

ROC Sidewalk Advocates for Life is a local branch of the national organization Sidewalk Advocates. Its stated mission is “to train, equip, and support local communities across the United States and the world in ‘sidewalk advocacy’: to be the hands and feet of Christ, offering loving, life-affirming alternatives to all present at the abortion center, thereby eliminating demand and ending abortion.” Jim Havens is the current program director for the Rochester branch.

Further Details

ROC Sidewalk Advocates have long gathered outside a Planned Parenthood facility on University Avenue in Rochester to offer “abortion alternatives” to women. But in June 2018, they were informed by Rochester police that they were in violation of a 15-foot-buffer-zone rule. The buffer zone was put in place by a 2005 federal injunction that originated from a “state attorney general lawsuit against Operation Rescue National and…other anti-abortion groups.” The injunction prohibits such groups from various antagonizing behaviors outside reproductive health clinics.

The Rochester police force enforced this injunction during the summer of 2018. Jim Havens, president of Rochester’s Sidewalk Advocates branch, pushed back on behalf of the organization with assistance from the Thomas More Society. They argued that since Sidewalk Advocates were not among the original defendants in the 2005 injunction case, and were not coordinating with anyone who was in violation of the injunction, they should not have to adhere to the 15-foot buffer requirement.

Outcome

City of Rochester reverses position, then reverts to original stand

Following the Thomas More Society’s legal advocacy on behalf of ROC Sidewalk Advocates, the city of Rochester informed the society that the police department would no longer enforce the injunction because the group was not acting in concert with any of the defendants from the 2005 legal matter. However, as of September 21, 2018, the city reverted to its original enforcement of the injunction. According to a letter from city officials to the Thomas More Society, it appears that Jim Havens and ROC Sidewalk Advocates have been “acting in concert with several of the defendants in that action,” and accordingly must now respect the 15-foot buffer zone rule.

External References

City decides pro-life marchers have 1st Amendment rights, WND

Rochester gives anti-abortion group green light for Planned Parenthood protests, Democrat & Chronicle

City, AG’s Office: Local protesters outside Planned Parenthood must adhere to buffer zone, WHAM

The Thomas More Society

Sidewalk Advocates for Life

Prepared by Emma Vahey ‘20

Uploaded to Tracker: October 8, 2018

 

Free Speech in Civil Society graphic

Pro-Trump flag displayed and quickly removed at Walt Disney World – September 2018

Bay Lake, Florida

In a busy part of Disney World’s Magic Kingdom theme park in Florida, a man hung a flag for 64 seconds that appeared to support President Donald Trump’s reelection in 2020. He described the move as “gorilla marketing” intended to make a pro-Trump display go viral.

Key Players

Dion Cini is a self-described “ultra conservative” from New York City. Prior to displaying the pro-Trump flag at the Magic Kingdom, he had been a season-pass holder at the park for 26 years. Aside from this incident, he is known for flying pro-Trump flags on the boat that he sails around New York City waterways.

Disney World’s Magic Kingdom is a theme park near Orlando, Florida that plays an important role in the Disney franchise, attracting more than 20.4 million visitors a year. It features a daily “Festival of Fantasy” parade, which ends at a railroad station where Cini hung his flag.

Further Details

On September 23, 2018, Dion Cini hung a 15-foot pro-Trump flag from a train station near the main entrance of Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. The flag read “Re-Elect Donald J. Trump Keep America Great! 2020.” Scott Gustin, a reporter for Tribune Media, tweeted that the flag was aloft for only 64 seconds before Cini and an accomplice, whom he had recruited at the last minute, were stopped by security. Cini instructed the other man to run away when security began to approach them.

Cini estimated that 500 people took pictures of his stunt, which is part of his greater crusade to help pro-Trump displays go viral, such as when someone hoisted a similar flag at a stage production of Disney’s Frozen in August 2018. “My goal is to make each one bigger and better,” Cini told Fox News.

According to The Hill, a Disney spokesperson acknowledged that the event occurred but would not provide further comment. One theme park blogger noted, however, that “While the U.S. Constitution protects the right to protest in public, the Supreme Court held in the 1976 case Hudgens v. NLRB that the First Amendment does not guarantee free speech on private commercial property.” A caveat in a later case, Pruneyard v. Robins, which upheld the 1976 ruling, allowed states to grant more permissive free speech rights on private property that is freely open to the public. But, given that Disney’s theme parks are not freely open to the public, the company has the right to shut down any unapproved activity on the park’s property.

Outcome

Florida man criticised and banned for politicising Disney World’s Magic Kingdom

From local news reports to posts on Twitter, Cini received criticism for bringing politics to the traditionally non-partisan Disney park. According to WDBO, an Orlando-based radio station, the stunt got Cini banned from the park and his season pass revoked.

External References

Disney moves quickly to remove political banner from Main Street, Theme Park Insider

One of the first tweets about the incident.

A description of the event, describing that “It was over before it started”

Man describes how he hung a ‘re-elect Trump’ banner at Walt Disney World, Fox 35

Man Hangs “Re-Elect Trump” Banner at Disney’s Magic Kingdom, IheartRadio

Man Sneaks “Re-Elect Trump” Banner into Magic Kingdom, The Hill

 

Prepared by Gustav Honl-Stuenkel ‘20

Date uploaded to tracker: October 4, 2018

Free Speech in Civil Society graphic

Appellate court rules in favor of protesters preaching outside Nashville Pride festival – September 2018

Nashville, TN

Two men protesting against a 2015 Nashville LGBTQ Pride Festival were ordered by police to remove themselves from the event. The two protesters sued, and the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled, 2-1, in their favor, overturning the earlier decision against them in federal district court.

Key Players

John McGlone and Jeremy Peters asserted that their rights to Free Speech were violated when they were forced to stop preaching outside a celebration of LGBTQ community and identity, a philosophy of which they disapproved.

McGlone, an evangelical preacher from Kentucky, has been involved in Nashville Free Speech controversies in the past. In 2012, he was cited for violating the city’s noise ordinances by preaching too loudly in the streets. He appealed that decision, saying it was a violation of his Free Speech rights, but lost on appeal. That same year, he was also fined for “disturbing the peace” outside a music festival. He appealed that decision, also citing his First Amendment rights, and lost accordingly, according to the Nashville Tennessean.

Peters is involved in another, unrelated Free Speech lawsuit in which he claims his First Amendment rights were infringed when he was threatened with arrest for protesting outside of a Nashville arena.

Further Details

In June 2015, McGlone and Peters were protesting outside the Nashville Pride Festival, using bullhorns and other sound amplifiers to condemn and preach against same-sex relationships, according to The Tennessean. An off-duty Nashville police officer, who had been hired by a private firm to provide security for the festival, instructed the men to leave the sidewalk in front of Public Square Park, where the festival was being held, or face arrest. They moved across the street, but continued to preach for hours, the Tennessean reported.

The next year, McGlone and Peters filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Nashville. They argued that their Free Speech rights had been violated when they were forced to relocate, according to the Associated Press. The city countered that police actions against McGlone and Peters were not based on the content of what they were saying, but were rather due to their “interfering” with the festival’s mission, according to the Tennessean. The district court initially ruled in favor of the city in September 2017, a decision which McGlone and Peters would eventually appeal.

Outcome

Appellate court rules in favor of preaching protesters

On September 19, 2018, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of McGlone and Peters, saying the city’s restriction of the two protesters was clearly content-based, and a violation of their First Amendment rights.

“Nashville’s explanation leaves no doubt that but for the anti-homosexuality message that McGlone and Peters were advancing as they stood on the sidewalk, they would not have been excluded,” the order said, according to the Tennessean. “How, then, can Nashville argue that its restriction of the preachers’ speech was not content based?”

The ruling also found that McGlone and Peters did not attempt to participate in the festival or to co-opt its purpose. Hence, the court said, the city’s presumed authority to remove them was invalid.

Circuit Court Judge Karen Nelson Moore dissented from the appellate court decision, arguing that the protesters’ use of bullhorns was sufficiently disruptive that the city could remove them without paying heed to their content.

External References

Outdoor preacher battles Tennessee city’s noise law, USA Today

Street preacher loses his appeal over Franklin festival incident, Nashville Tennessean

Court: Anti-gay preachers had right to protest outside Pride, Associated Press

Nashville should have let preachers protest homosexuality outside pride event, court rules, Nashville Tennessean

Notes: Street preachers take Pride protest to Sixth Circuit, Nashville Post

Prepared by Maya Gandhi ’20

Uploaded October 4 , 2018

Free Speech in Civil Society graphic

Nike presents Kaepernick as the face of a new ad campaign, sparking controversy – September 2018

Beaverton, Oregon

Nike’s decision in September 2018 to sign Colin Kaepernick, the National Football League (NFL) quarterback famous for triggering a wave of protests against singing the national anthem before games, ignited swift and polarized reaction. Despite condemnation from customers and President Donald Trump, the Oregon company announced days later that a commercial featuring Kaepernick would run during the NFL’s opening games of the 2018 season.

Key Players

Colin Kaepernick is an NFL football player; as of the start of the 2018 NFL season, he was not signed to any team. Initially drafted in the second round of the 2011 NFL draft, Kaepernick played for the San Francisco 49ers until 2016.

In 2016, Kaepernick gained notoriety for kneeling during the national anthem, which has been played before sanctioned NFL football games since World War II. However, as Axios reports, NFL players only began standing during the anthem in 2009; before then, they would often remain in their locker rooms. While many saw Kaepernick’s, and subsequently other players’, protests as an affront against the flag and armed forces veterans, Kaepernick insisted that its main purpose was to raise awareness of racial and social inequality, including police brutality against minorities.

Since opting out of his contract with the 49ers in 2016, Kaepernick has had difficulty being hired by another NFL team, despite widespread recognition amongst football experts that he had sufficient talent to continue playing in the league. In 2017, Kaepernick filed a complaint against the NFL, accusing them of blackballing him from being hired. In August 2018, Kaepernick scored a victory in the case, when an arbitrator allowed his case against the league to proceed.

Further Details

Since Kaepernick first knelt during the anthem in 2016, the NFL, and other professional and amateur sports leagues, have seen an explosion of similar actions by players. The movement reached a boiling point in September 2017, when more than 200 NFL players participated in the anthem protests. This evoked strong reactions from fans, Donald Trump, and companies like Papa John’s that decided pull their ads from NFL game broadcasts.

However, several firms — including Nike, Under Armour and Ford — voiced their support for athletes’ freedom of expression, according to Yahoo. “Nike supports athletes and their right to freedom of expression on issues that are of great importance to our society,” that company said in a September 2017 statement.

In May 2018, the NFL issued a rule requiring players either to stand for the national anthem, remain in the locker room, or suffer fines. However, several team owners refused to implement the rule, and eventually the league agreed to suspend its enforcement, according to the New York Times.

On Sept. 3, 2018, Nike announced that it had signed a multi-year contract with Kaepernick, whereby he would become the face of Nike’s 30th anniversary “Just Do It” campaign. That day, it released the first of its television advertisements featuring him, which read on screen: “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” A billboard version of the same ad went up in San Francisco.

Nike also planned to produce new Kaepernick merchandise, according to the Times, and said it would donate money to his “Know Your Rights” campaign.

Days after the initial announcement, Nike released a two-minute advertisement narrated by Kaepernick and featuring other prominent athletes like tennis star Serena Williams and basketball player LeBron James. It ran during the NFL’s first telecast of the 2018 regular football season, as well as during the U.S. Open tennis championship and college football games.

Outcome

Kaepernick’s Nike campaign triggers controversy from all sides

Kaepernick’s new role with Nike sparked immediate outcry across the political spectrum. “Just Do It” and “Nike” quickly became trending topics on Twitter in the United States, according to the Times, and some individuals took to the social media site to declare their boycotts of Nike and showcase the destruction of their Nike products.

Trump, who had been critical of protests by NFL players, spoke out on Sept. 5 against Nike’s decision. “Just like the NFL, whose ratings have gone WAY DOWN, Nike is getting absolutely killed with anger and boycotts. I wonder if they had any idea that it would be this way?” Trump tweeted. “As far as the NFL is concerned, I just find it hard to watch, and always will, until they stand for the FLAG!”

On September 6, 2018, The Kansas City Star reported that the College of the Ozarks — a small, Christian liberal arts school near Springfield, Missouri, with a student body of about 1,400 — would no longer use Nike as the supplier for their athletes’ uniforms. “In their new ad campaign, we believe Nike executives are promoting an attitude of division and disrespect toward America,” College President Jerry C. Davis said in a statement, according to the Star. “If Nike is ashamed of America, we are ashamed of them.”

The same month, a private Southern Baptist college in Georgia, Truett McConnell University, announced that it, too, would be cutting ties with Nike, which supplies t-shirts and other goods to its bookstore. University president Eric Caner said that Nike’s support of Kaepernick “mocks our troops.”

But Kaepernick has also received his fair share of support Both LeBron James and Serena Williams openly supported Nike’s decision to sign the controversial athlete. “Having a huge company back him, you know, could be a controversial reason for this company, but they’re not afraid,” Williams said.

While Nike’s stock price feel more than two percent the day after the announcement, the tumble was attributed to broader market anxiety, as competitors fell at a similar rate, according to the Times.

The Washington Post reported that Nike had experienced a 31 percent increase in online sales since announcing Kaepernick as the face of its campaign, and that its stock, on September 13, had hit an all-time high at $83.47.

External References

Colin Kaepernick explains why he sat during national anthem, NFL Media

Nike, an NFL sponsor, takes clear side in Trump vs NFL, Yahoo News

Colin Kaepernick’s Nike Campaign Keeps N.F.L. fAnthem Kneeling in Spotlight, The New York Times

Nike’s Kaepernick Ad Set to Air on N.F.L.’s Opening Telecast, The New York Times

The Nike swoosh is out at Missouri’s College of the Ozarks because of Kaepernick ad, The Kansas City Star

Nike enjoys 31 percent bump in online sales after debut of Colin Kaepernick campaign, The Washington Post

Story on Truett McConnell University dropping Nike, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

History of singing national anthem before NFL games, Axios

Prepared by Maya Gandhi ’20

Uploaded October 2, 2018