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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

 

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Federal appeals court rules foundation must disclose donors to California – September 2018

San Francisco, CA

In Americans for Prosperity Foundation (AFP Foundation) v. Becerra, a federal appeals court ruled that California, could compel charities to disclose donor lists, overturning a district judge’s decision that such a move infringed on the foundation’s First Amendment rights.

Key Players

Americans for Prosperity Foundation is a charitable group backed by Charles and David Koch, otherwise known as the Koch brothers. The pair of billionaires oversee a network of nonprofits that control hundreds of millions of dollars flowing into politics. While most know them for their unwavering commitment to reducing regulation, advancing libertarian ideas, and promoting free-market Republican candidates, the brothers are also staunch advocates of Free Speech, and have openly disagreed with some of Donald Trump’s trade and immigration policies. AFP, which is the brothers’ primary vehicle for political advocacy, has strong libertarian and conservative leanings, and has been heavily involved in Republican politics, contributing to the rise of the Tea Party and of GOP majorities in both houses of Congress. The group is classified as a public charity, making it a nonprofit entity exempt from federal taxes; consequently, AFP Foundation is not required to disclose its donors publicly. However, California requires such charities to disclose to the state attorney general (AG) the same information it does to the Internal Revenue Service, according to The Washington Post.

Xavier Becerra, as California’s current AG, now has jurisdiction over the state’s dealings with AFP Foundation, but US Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Ca.) was California’s AG when this litigation began.

Further Details

The attempt to force AFP Foundation to disclose its donors began in 2016 under Harris, who claimed she needed donor lists to determine if the group had “violated the law, including laws against self-dealing, improper loans, interested persons, or illegal or unfair business practices.”

U.S. District Court Judge Manuel Real, of Los Angeles, the longest-sitting federal trial court judge in the country, issued a permanent injunction on April 21, 2016, which prevented Harris and the AG’s office from obtaining the lists. Real found dubious Harris’s claim that she needed them for investigative purposes, Politico reported. He also cited repeated previous instances in which the state had inadvertently published such donor lists, which were supposed to remain confidential in state files, Politico said.

Harris’s office immediately announced plans to appeal the ruling, with a spokeswoman saying that the disclosure of documents similar to AFP Foundation’s donor lists “is a long-standing requirement that has helped Attorneys General for more than a decade protect taxpayers against fraud,” according to Politico, which corroborated this assertion.

Real, in turn, noted that this requirement had been enforced inconsistently, and that violent threats against the Koch brothers, which he had learned about through court testimony, would only be exacerbated by the release of the documents.

The judge also made clear that his decision, along with an earlier one from the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals, let stand the principle of requiring disclosure of donor lists, but allowed exceptions for groups that could prove their donors would be intimidated by such disclosure, as with the AFP Foundation.

Outcome

Federal appellate judges overturn lower court decision, rule in favor of California

On Sept. 11, 2018, a three-judge panel of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously overturned Judge Real’s decision, ruling that AFP Foundation must disclose its donors to the California AG’s office, according to The Washington Post. Judge Raymond C. Fisher wrote that obtaining donors’ information was in the state’s interest and did not infringe on AFP Foundation’s First Amendment rights, because of the non-public nature of the collection and the relatively minor risk of inadvertent publication, according to the Post.

An AFP Foundation spokesman said it “intends to continue doing all it can to … protect the important constitutional rights at stake,” leading some to believe it would ask that the case be reheard by the full complement of Ninth Circuit judges, sitting en banc, or appeal it to the US Supreme Court. The foundation also claims the decision “imperils people’s First Amendment right to freedom of speech and of association,” the Post reports. Timothy Phillips, president of the foundation, testified during the case that the group felt politically targeted, given that both Harris and Becerra are Democrats.

David Keating, president of the Institute for Free Speech, a nonprofit that opposes limits on free speech, called the ruling “appallingly wrong.”

“Basically, the panel is saying there’s no right to privacy in California if you speak on anything,” Keating was quoted as saying in a Post article. “The implications of that are pretty chilling and pretty stunning.”

But AG Becerra defended and upheld the state’s disclosure laws, saying they were intended to “protect Californians who donate their hard-earned dollars to charity.”

External References

Koch-linked group scores legal victory over California AG, Politico

CASE NO. CV 14-9448-R: Americans for Prosperity Foundation v. Kamala Harris

Koch-backed charity must reveal donor list to California officials, appeals panel rules, The Washington Post

Koch group loses donor secrecy fight at appeals court, Politico

Prepared by Maya Gandhi ’20

Uploaded September 30, 2018

 

Free Speech in Civil Society graphic

Iowa Democratic Party Veterans’ Caucus Prohibited From Participating in Iowa State Fair – August 2018

Des Moines, Iowa

On August 13, 2018, the Iowa Democratic Party Veterans’ Caucus (IDVC), a military veterans group, was prohibited from walking in the annual Iowa State Fair veterans parade, despite having already been approved to participate. Decisionmakers cited the caucus’s partisan nature as sufficient reason to exclude it from the parade. Such apparent bias, according to Dan Gannon, Iowa Commission of Veterans’ Affairs chair, went against the event’s intended purpose.

Key Players

The Iowa Democratic Party Veterans’ Caucus (IDVC) is the recognized voice for veterans and their families within the Iowa Democratic Party. The group’s motto is “Our Second Call To Duty,” and it advocates for policy and legislation to better the lives of veterans and their families.

Dan Gannon is chair of the Iowa Commission of Veterans’ Affairs, which was created to serve as a voice for veterans and their families. In each of Iowa’s 99 counties, there is a commissioner of veterans Affairs and a county director. Gannon, a Marine veteran who served in the Vietnam War, was also part of the unofficial group of organizers that helped plan the veterans parade.

Ron Healey is chair of the Iowa Democratic Party Veterans’ Caucus.

Kim Reynolds is the Republican governor of Iowa.

Further Details

On August 10, The Iowa Democratic Party Veterans’ Caucus received notification that it would not be allowed to walk in the annual veterans parade at the Iowa State Fair on August 13, after having previously received approval for participation, according to IDVC chair Healey.

Immediately following the announcement, Democratic military veterans claimed that Governor Reynolds was behind the prohibition of the group. But the decision to ban the IDVC from the parade was apparently made by parade officials, not the state government.

According to Gannon, the caucus was barred from participating in the parade because of its political leanings. In an interview with the Des Moines Register, Gannon emphasized the nonpartisan nature of the parade. “This is not about politics; this is about veterans,” he said of the parade’s mission. Reynolds echoed this sentiment when she told a Register reporter, “You need to talk with the commission, but it has never been partisan. It should never be partisan.” She said, “This is about our veterans and it should be about saluting and celebrating them.”

The parade’s status as a nonpartisan event was brought into question by some members of the IDVC, however. For example, they noted the participation of Veterans for Peace, an anti-war group, and the Iowa Secretary of State, Paul Rate, a Republican running for re-election. Gannon defended their inclusion, however, arguing that they were still less partisan than the IDVC. Rate, argued Gannon, was already an elected state official who had established programs honoring veterans. “We don’t want a whole boatload of folks who have political messages,” Gannon said.

The decision to block the IDVC from marching marked an unprecedented step for parade organizers, who had allowed them to participate in previous years. According to Healey, the Veterans’ Caucus had marched in the 2008 parade, and Gannon himself remembered the group from 2015. In a statement, Healey wrote that such a move served only to exclude a group of veterans from a tradition designed to honor them. “By dis-inviting our veterans from a parade they have marched in for years, the Reynolds administration is telling Democratic veterans that their service is worth less than others’ for purely partisan reasons.” Some members of the veterans group still attended the parade, according to Healey, but stayed off to the side during the procession.

Outcome

Iowa State Fair Commission to Clarify Veterans Parade Rules in 2019

In an article for the Des Moines Register, Gannon apologized for changing the eligibility of the group just days before the start of the parade. He said he will make it clear in 2019 that political parties can not participate in the event.

External References

“Democratic military vets claim Republican politics barred them from Iowa State Fair parade,” Des Moines Register

Iowa Democratic Party

Iowa Democratic Veterans’ Caucus Facebook

Iowa Department of Veterans Affairs

“Iowa official defends ban on Democratic veterans group from parade, says decision is ‘not about politics,’ Des Moines Register

“Parade Organizers, Democratic Veterans Group Clash at the Fair,” Iowa Public Radio

“Veterans’ group blocked from parade due to political affiliation,” KCCI Des Moines

Prepared by Erin Doherty ‘20

Uploaded to tracker September 28, 2018

 

Free Speech in Civil Society graphic

Far-right groups repeatedly clash with counter-protesters in Portland – June 2018

Portland, OR

Summer 2018 saw numerous clashes break out in Portland, Oregon, between antifa, or “anti-fascist,” protesters and right-wing activists. The far-right group Patriot Prayer was involved in at least three rallies-turned-skirmishes with far-left counter-protesters. After violence broke out on August 4, 2018, Portland police were accused of using excessive force against those protesting a Patriot Prayer demonstration.

Key Players

Antifa is a loose network of anti-fascist protesters often associated with far-left movements. Members of Rose City Antifa, based out of Portland and one of the oldest and most organized groups of the antifa network, were among those involved in the clashes, according to the AP.

Patriot Prayer is a far-right group also based in Portland, Oregon. Founded in 2016, it has been involved in many of the area’s recent political riots. The group’s leader, aspiring U.S. Senator Joe Gibson from Washington state, told reporters that the group’s primary goal is to defend “love and freedom,” values to which, he said, liberals are the greatest threat. Though Patriot Prayer is not designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) as a white supremacist or hate group, its events regularly draw members from right-wing organizations that look to promote Free Speech by eradicating “political correctness.“

Further Details

Clashes between far-right protesters, often affiliated with Patriot Prayer, and antifa counter-protesters erupted at least three times during the summer of 2018.

The first took place on June 3, when members of Patriot Prayer — joined by members of the white nationalist group Proud Boys, who often participate in Patriot Prayer marches — held a rally in Terry Schrunk Plaza, a park in downtown Portland. The event, according to the SPLC, was advertised as a final farewell for one of the Proud Boys’ most prominent members, who was set to return to his homeland of American Samoa. No clear political message had been outlined for the rally, and no formal speeches planned, as was standard for other Patriot Prayer demonstrations. Instead, Gibson and the departing Proud Boy egged on Patriot Prayer members as they paraded through downtown Portland, antagonizing groups of counter-protestors along the way. According to the Associated Press (AP), videos of the clash went viral in the following days, drawing national attention to Portland. Four people were arrested as a result of the demonstration.

The second incident occurred on June 30, when a permitted Patriot Prayer march quickly erupted into violence, prompting Portland police to intervene. According to NPR, Patriot Prayer members had assembled in downtown parks early that Saturday afternoon. A roughly equal number of antifa protesters gathered nearby to confront them.

In the moments leading up to the march, a row of police, clad in riot-gear, divided the two groups as they hurled insults at each other. Before long, according to NPR, insults escalated into projectiles (rocks, bottles, construction equipment, etc.), forcing police to break rank, cancel the permit, and declare the situation a riot. They used flash bangs and rubber bullets to break up the crowds. Some claim tear gas was also used, but the Portland police deny this. NPR reports that five people, including a patrol officer, were taken to the hospital. One sustained serious, but non-threatening, injuries.

A third encounter occurred on August 4 between far-right demonstrators and antifa counter-protesters. According to the AP, “dozens of the extreme-right protesters were bussed to Portland” from Vancouver, Washington, and gathered in a downtown park. Hundreds of counter-protesters stood across the street, separated by a wall of law enforcement officers. Soon after the Patriot Prayer protest began, individuals surrounded the police cars and began throwing projectiles, including rocks and firework mortars, according to ABC News. The violence led police to announce that the crowds must disperse. Several individuals, including a local reporter, sustained minor injuries, and four people were arrested.

“City officials have struggled with striking a balance between free speech and keeping events from spiraling out of control,” wrote the AP in the wake of the clashes.

Outcome

Portland police chief reviews use of force

After the August 4 clash, many accused Portland police officers of using excessive force, including stun grenades and rubber bullets. Some also claimed that police especially targeted antifa groups and other counter-protestors, an allegation the Portland Police Bureau denies.

“The intent of law enforcement today was to provide a safe environment for all participants, non-participants, and community members while ensuring the peaceful exercise of the First Amendment,” the police department said in a statement, according to ABC News.

The Oregon chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, along with the Portland chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, called for an official investigation, saying the police “targeted Portland residents peacefully counter-protesting against racist far-right groups,” according to the AP.

David Rogers, the head of Oregon’s branch of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), expressed similar concerns. “The Portland Police Bureau’s response to protest is completely unacceptable in a free society,” Rogers said in an August 5 statement. “The repeated use of excessive force, and the targeting of demonstrators based on political beliefs are a danger to the First Amendment rights of all people. We call on the Portland Police Bureau, Mayor Wheeler, and Chief Outlaw to immediately end the use of weapons, munitions, and explosives against protesters.”

On August 5, Portland Police Chief Danielle Outlaw announced the beginning of an investigation to determine if force was used within designated policy guidelines, according to the AP.

External References

Violent Protests Again Draw Attention to Portland, Oregon, AP

Patriot Prayer and Proud Boys roll into Portland ready for a fight, SPLC

Police Declare A Riot After Far-Right And Antifa Groups Clash In Portland, Ore., NPR

Oregon police chief orders review of use of force at protest, AP

Protesters clash with police, each other in dueling rallies held in Portland; 4 arrested, ABC News

Prepared by Maya Gandhi ’20

Uploaded September 12, 2018

 

Free Speech in Civil Society graphic

National Football League releases new rules regulating players’ actions during anthem – May 2018

New York, NY

Following the National Football League’s (NFL) spring league meeting, commissioner Roger Goodell announced on May 23, 2018, that team owners had voted unanimously to approve new rules concerning player conduct during the playing or singing of the national anthem before games. Many players had been kneeling during the anthem since 2016, when San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick became the first to do so. According to Kapernick and others, the gesture is intended as a form of protest against social injustice in America. The issue quickly escalated into a national debate after President Donald Trump weighed in on the matter during a May 24 interview on “Fox and Friends,” suggesting that Kaepernick and other protestors were un-American, and that they should be fired from their jobs for their actions.

Key Players

The National Football League, which includes Commissioner Roger Goodell and 34 team owners (of 32 teams), holds regular meetings in which members  vote on league-wide policies. Team owners unanimously voted by a show of hands to approve three new rules during the May 23 meeting. Two concerned on-the-field play, but the third dealt with how players should act while the anthem is being played. There were two abstentions, one by San Francisco 49ers owner John Edward York and the other by Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis.

NFL Players, including teammates Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid, and Seattle Seahawk Jeremy Lane, decided to use their national platform to draw attention to alleged police brutality and systemic racial inequality in the United States. Protests included kneeling, sitting, linking arms, and raising a clenched fist during the national anthem.

Further Details

After Kaepernick knelt before the 49ers’ final preseason game on September 1, 2016, other NFL players began following his lead. In addition to individual protests, players banded together into groups, occasionally even coordinating with their whole team to protest, as the Seattle Seahawks did just two weeks after Kaepernick’s initial anthem protest. Demonstrations like these continued into the 2017-18 season.

On May 23,2018, Goodell announced that the league owners had voted to approve broad new measures related to anthem protests, but they had not consulted the NFL Players’ Association about their decision. The new rules stipulated that “All team and league personnel on the field shall stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem… personnel who choose not to stand for the anthem may stay in the locker room or in a similar location off the field until after the anthem has been performed.” In addition, the new rules established punitive measures in the event  they are violated, including fines from the league and “appropriate discipline” to be determined by the NFL commissioner.

The Players Association released a statement shortly after the new rules were announced, asserting that they had not been consulted, and that “NFL players have shown their patriotism through their social activism, their community service, in support of our military and law enforcement and yes, through their protests to raise awareness about the issues they care about.” The statement ended with this promise: “Our union will review the new ‘policy’ and challenge any aspect of it that is inconsistent with the collective bargaining agreement.”

However, the policy was suspended on July 20 after it was discovered that the Miami Dolphins planned on implementing a team rule that any improper anthem conduct would result in suspension for up to four games.. Many viewed this as harsher than the punishment outlined in the new league rule, and noted that the penalty exceeded that given to players found guilty of domestic violence.

Outcome

The NFL and NFL Players Association come to standoff, resulting in suspension of controversial anthem policy

As of September 6, the official start of the 2019 NFL season, talks between the NFL and NFLPA were still on hold. While the agreement remains in a standstill, players are allowed to kneel, raise fists, or sit during the anthem, as some did during the 2019 preseason.

External References

NFL owners approve national anthem policy for 2018, NFL website

Roger Goodell’s statement on national anthem policy. NFL website

The public response from the NFLPA, posted on Twitter.

The Five Hours That Forced the NFL to Reconsider Its Anthem Policy, Sports Illustrated

NFL, NFLPA Reach ‘Standstill Agreement’ Over National Anthem Policy. Sports Illustrated

NFL National ANthem Protests: Compromise Unlikely Before Start of Season, Deadline

 

Prepared by Gustav Honl-Stuenkel  ‘20

Uploaded September 6, 2018