Land of the Free (Except Near Bush)

Via my brother's White House Briefing comes a dead-pan rendition of this very very disturbing story:

John Myers writes in the local paper, the Duluth News Tribune: “The president entered the DECC Arena just before 6 p.m., nearly 10 minutes ahead of schedule, to darkened lights, blaring music and a giant W-shaped spotlight that moved across the crowd.

“As the president entered the Arena, screams erupted among his raucous supporters who had waited in line for tickets, waited in line to clear security, then waited still longer for the president's arrival.”

Chris Hamilton of the Duluth paper adds: “It was a tightly controlled event staffed by dozens of volunteers with laminated badges. The Secret Service set up metal detectors and had mug shots of local anti-Bush activists Joel Kilgour and Joel Sipress.”

But it's Michael Larson they should have been watching for.

As Myers reports: “Bush's speech was interrupted for a few seconds when a protester, Michael Larson of Duluth, stood up in an aisle and yelled, 'Shame on you.' Bush stopped speaking only briefly and didn't acknowledge Larson, who was wearing a white T-shirt with fake blood painted on it. Larson was immediately ushered out by police and Secret Service. He was ticketed and released by police.”

Wait a minute.

The Secret Service blocks dissidents from attending a public meeting based on the content of their speech?!? That's vile.

Heckling gets you forcibly ejected by cops? And ticketed? (This only rates one “?” as I can imagine how this might be 'creating a public nuisance' or something, but given that it's unlikley that an enraptured pro-Bush interruption would cause an arrest, I still think there's an issue here.)

What's taking so long for that ACLU lawsuit about so-called free speech zones anyway? The complaint in ACORN v. Philadelphia was filed last September. Is nothing going to happen before the election?

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10 Responses to Land of the Free (Except Near Bush)

  1. Bret Fausett says:

    Hasn’t it always been this way? When I was in college, Bush came to campus to stump for the Reagan-Bush reelection effort. I had a huge sign that said, in large letters, “Re-elect Reagan-Bush in 1984” and then in small letters, “if you want this:” Beneath that was a mushroom cloud. (hey, I was only 20!) Anyway, a small free speech zone had been created far away from the Bush speech — so far out of sight that you couldn’t see Bush and Bush couldn’t see you. The screeners didn’t get the content of my sign, so they let me through into the regular student section of the crowd. A lot of pro-Bush people had pro-Bush signs in this area. About midway through Bush’s speech, the secret service finally caught onto my sign, grabbed me, and escorted me out of the area. I wasn’t yelling or posing a threat to Bush’s speech in any way. It was just the content of my sign. That was 20 years ago.


  2. Mojo says:

    Excellent point! I think that sustained heckling should result in the heckler being removed from the venue (by the police, not the Secret Service) as it prevents another from the opportunity to engage in his/her free speech (and interferes with the crowds right to hear it). However, other forms of speech which do not materially interfere with the speech of the featured individual such as this individual’s comment, Bret’s sign mentioned above, brief booing and similar actions should be protected. Also, IMHO people should not be prevented from protesting along the route to an event, near the entrance to the event, etc. (as they were in the case Bret mentions and as seems almost standard these days) if that doesn’t significantly interfere with others’ rights. The whole idea of a “Free Speech Zone” and how that meshes with the Constitution makes my head hurt.

  3. MP says:

    Heckling is just plain rude and uncivil. It is ludicrous to argue that in today’s day and age, a person doesn’t have a civil outlet to voice his concerns about any politician and has to disrupt the lives of others. A quick boo or hiss is fine, but eventually the heckler has to put a sock in it. Doesn’t matter if its a politcal speech or at a comedy club.

    Further, common sense says that after a while, a heckler’s actions start to become fighting words, where members of the crowd will take it upon themselves to shut a loudmouth up if the cops don’t.

    I’ll tell you what, when the authorities shut down this website, then I’ll start worrying about the constitution. What you are suggesting is to give people liscenses to be a-holes.

    As far as routes and hightened sensitivity, you have your peace loving islamofascists to blame for that.

  4. fibo says:

    I’m really not sure if there is a constitutional problem with “free speech zones”. The First Amendment reads “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press,” and the Supreme Court extended that prohibition to state government. But I don’t think it applies anywhere else. Professor, I’ve noticed quite a few spam posts from advertisers being deleted off the comment boards. If one of those spammers decided to sue under the First Amendment demanding the right to post his spam on your board, how far would he get? The Democratic Underground has a forum rule stating that conservative opinions are not permitted in their forums – if a conservative sued to be allowed access to said boards, would he win? Does Michael Moore have a freedom of speech case against Disney because they refused to distribute his movie?

    Individuals have the right to free speech. On the other hand, individuals aren’t under any obligation to provide a platform for speech they disagree with, or to give ‘equal time’ to opposing views. That is to say, if Bush doesn’t want protesters criticising him on his own time and his own dollar, that’s his right. I think it’s cowardly and shameful, but it’s his right.

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  6. Bob says:

    But does Bush have the right to use the Secret Service to shut people up? That’s clearly beyond their mandate. And I don’t know about this Duluth event, but it’s sometimes clearly not on Bush’s own dollar. Those people who were removed from a government-funded presidential visit in Charleston WV when they took off their jackets to reveal anti-Bush t-shirts — the police handcuffed them, hauled them away, and cited them for trespassing. (The charge was eventually dismissed because the law against trespassing doesn’t apply to publicly owned public space.)

  7. MP says:

    fibo-i’m just curious, but what does your common sense tell you about the first amendment’s applicability to this forum?
    You start your sentence with “But” which I assume is a concession that the police action in this case was not censorship, but rather a keeping of the peace. You then go on to say the secret service “shut people up”. Before you start pinning swastikas on the secret service, take a step back and realize all they did was remove a disorderly person before the crowd did. Further, when a person doesn’t know when to quit, it makes you wonder about their stability and if their next step might not be to rush the stage or something else stupid.

  8. fibo says:

    MP – the First Amendment doesn’t apply to this blog. It applies to the government and prevents it from using its power to censor this blog. How’s that question relevant to the discussion? Of course a spammer doesn’t have the First Amendment right to post here. None of us do. I thought the example was pretty obviously demonstrating absurdity by being absurd.

    Bob – if Bush was an ordinary citizen, the private security at the Duluth Arena would have been able to throw out anyone causing a disturbance – in fact, they could evict anyone, for any reason, by asking them to leave and hitting them with a trespass charge if they refused. Bush’s the president, so he has Secret Service doing the job of arena security – so? It’d be a little silly to allow rent-a-cops more power to enforce order than the SS. The Charleston episode does seem to be abuse of power, and it’s certainly not out of character for Bush to give his minions illegal orders. I just don’t think there’s anything illegal or unconstitutional in the Duluth case, or (maybe) in free speech zones in general.

  9. BrianWild7 says:

    hey, fibo, you idiot, the Secret Service is acting on my dime, and I think the agents should be arrested and prosecuted. It is the only way it is going to stop. Its called assault under color of authority. When they act illegally, they are just well-armed thugs.


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