Submitted by Lawrence Rafferty, (rafflaw), Guest Blogger
After a few recent discussions about Free Speech in earlier threads, I came across another example of how limited our Free Speech really is. At a recent speech by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a former CIA employee, Ray McGovern, attempted to protest her speech about Democracy and Freedom of Speech and how the freedom to disseminate information helped the Egyptians rid themselves of a brutal dictator.
“As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday about the failures of foreign leaders to respect people’s freedoms, a 71-year-old U.S. veteran Army officer, a man who spent 27 years in the CIA and delivered presidential daily briefs, a peace activist and proponent of nonviolence, the man who famously confronted Donald Rumsfeld for his war lies, the man who drafted our letter to Spain and delivered it to the Spanish Embassy on Monday, our friend Ray McGovern turned his back in silence. As Clinton continued to speak about respecting the rights of protesters, her guards — including an uniformed policeman and an unidentified plain-clothed official — grabbed Ray, dragged him off violently, brutalized him, double-cuffed him with metal handcuffs, and left him bleeding in jail. As he was hauled away (see video), Ray shouted “So this is America?” Clinton went right on mouthing her hypocrisies without a pause.” Truthout
When I read this sad story about Mr. McGovern, it reminded me of a similar incident where a University of Florida student named Andrew Meyer was being rude and obnoxious in asking questions of Senator John Kerry in 2007 and he was attacked by police and eventually tasered into submission. You remember the “Don’t tase me Bro” guy don’t you? What do these two stories have in common? I believe that they are both examples of our First Amendment rights being reduced or eliminated in front of our very eyes. Where was Sec. Clinton when this arrest happened? She was at the podium and didn’t bat an eye when McGovern was hauled off by police just as John Kerry allowed the tasing of Andrew Meyer to happen at his speech.
What was Mr. McGovern’s crime? He had the audacity to turn his back on Sec. Clinton’s speech! Off with his head! Well he did get to keep his head but he was thrown in jail for over 3 hours and was injured during the arrest by the officers and was not given medical assistance. What did the obnoxious Mr. Meyer do to get arrested and assaulted with a taser? He was just being a pain in the ass.
Is this the Free Speech that you imagine when you read the First Amendment? Is this the Free Speech that the founders of this country had in mind when they decided Free Speech was so important that they were going to make it the very First Amendment? Is Mr. Cox in Indiana who lost his deputy Attorney General’s job over his “give them live ammunition” tweet that Prof. Turley discussed earlier this week egregious enough to differentiate his situation from Mr. McGovern’s speech and the Taser guy’s rudeness? Are Free Speech zones actually an infringement of our Free Speech?
I think Justice William O. Douglas said it best when he described the First Amendment and its intended impact on society in the 1949 Terminello v. Chicago decision. “A function of free speech under our system of government is to invite dispute. It may indeed best serve its high purposes when it induces a condition of unrest, creates dissatisfaction with conditions as they are, or even stirs people to anger. Speech is often provocative and challenging. It may strike at prejudices and preconceptions and have profound unsettling effects as it presses for acceptance of an idea.” Terminello
Provocative speech is supposed to be protected under the First Amendment according to Justice Douglas. Was Mr. Meyer and Mr. McGovern just being too provocative for some people’s tastes or were they actually properly exercising their right to free speech?
Submitted by Lawrence Rafferty, (rafflaw) Guest Blogger