The Irony of Free Speech in California

Respectfully submitted by Lawrence Rafferty(rafflaw)-Guest Blogger

The term is one that is familiar to all of us.  The First Amendment gives all citizens the right of Freedom of Speech and the right to assemble.  Simple enough, right?  Evidently it is not so simple in the State of California.  Recently, members of Occupy Los Angeles were arrested while making full use of their First Amendment rights and after posting a $5,000 bond to get out of jail, were offered a deal to avoid a trial.  The Free Speech defendants were told that if they took a class offered by a private company for the mere cost of $355.00, they would not have to go to court for a trial.

At first glance that offer sounds reasonable.  Just what is the “class” all about? “For $355, protesters can pay a private company for lessons in free speech. American Justice Associates offers the educational program taught by an attorney – Neil G. Anderson – a former police officer and Supervising Deputy District Attorney for Sacramento County, and his partner attorney Deborah Bryce McKinley of Atlanta, GA.”  Crooks and Liars  This story is amazing to me on a couple of levels.  First of all, what can attorneys teach protestors who were arrested while exercising their First Amendment rights?  Are they going to tell them how many ways the government can try to control and limit those rights?  Are the teachers going to give the “students” lessons on how to maximize their First Amendment rights?  Is the class just a bad dodge by the State to avoid further bad publicity by eliminating the need for trials where the protestors can exclaim to the world that they were arrested because they had the temerity to actually use their First Amendment rights of Free Speech?

This attempt by the City of Los Angeles to make it more difficult on people who protest is an affront to the very Free Speech ideas that they claim will be taught in this class.  If anyone should take the class on Free Speech, it should be the City police and the City Attorney who is pushing this nonsense. The protestors and their counsel are not taking this class offer lightly, but they are fully aware of the irony caused by the offer.  “But a civil rights attorney who has worked closely with the protesters called the class “patronizing,” and said the demonstrators who were arrested are the last people needing free-speech training.  “There they were exercising their 1st Amendment, their lawful right to protest nonviolently,” said attorney Cynthia Anderson-Barker.  Several Occupy protesters, many of whom are fueled by anger at what they perceive as corporate greed and the increased privatization of public services, have noted the irony of being asked to pay a private contractor for the program. The tuition will go to the company, not the city, officials say.”  LA Times

It amazes me that our society has not reacted more forcefully against these arrests and post arrest tactics as well as the many militant arrests made throughout the country against Occupy Wall Street protestors. Maybe the class offered in Los Angeles will be able to explain just what happened to the Free Speech that our Founding Fathers envisioned when they wrote the First Amendment.

I wonder if the “teacher” of this class will assign a homework protest.  Maybe the company pocketing the $355.00 will hire Prof. Turley to be a visiting professor so he can explain what true Free Speech is!  Maybe not.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!

60 thoughts on “The Irony of Free Speech in California

  1. OS,
    You can tell that the OWS movement is working by the response by the police and the Right. Now, even if Bill is correct that some crime happens within the OWS movement, doesn’t the City of Los Angeles have crime in every neighborhood?

  2. I decided to catch up on this thread and found two small Christmas gifts. Bill has stopped pretending he’s a reasonable cop and Tootie returned.

    Thank you, Santa.

  3. Tootie, you say “the framers understood at the time the Constitution was written that the states had the right to forbid or infringe on certain speech (like libel, lies, etc.). The federal government cannot infringe in anyway on speech, though it can indirectly punish fraudulent claims in a federal case.”

    The second clause of the first amendment, “freedom of speech and of the [printing] press” is about the same idea as “academic freedom”. It protects the discussion of ideas, not lying, fraud, porn…

  4. Otteray Scribe:

    No more excuses. Your blog is hardly a court of law.

    You have right to assemble to address grievances you have with gov’t.

    You do not have a right to create health hazards, target local businesses with the intent to stop customers from exercising their right to purchase good or services, or stop the businesses from exercising their right to provide those goods and services.

    You have right to assemble to address grievances you have with govt. not to take over public land and facilities financed and maintained by all the taxpayers— rendering it useless for the purposes intended by those who paid for it.

    You have right to assemble to address grievances you have with gov’t. You do not have a right to create a haven for rapists, thieves, drug addicts and other common street criminals and then discourage your victims from reporting the crimes to police. There are several throughout the country who have already reported that occupy organizers have pressured crime victims to shut up.

    “Officer Bill, you are aware, are you not, that there were repeated instances in which people leaving the scene after being ordered out, were chased down by police in full riot gear and arrested, some of them being beaten?”

    No, I am not. The only protestors “chased down” were those who thought they could throw bottles, some filled with urine, and rocks at police from a crowd and not be seen. We videotaped them and the videos will be played at their hearings…but most have, or will, plead guilty once their attorneys get copies of the videotaped proof.

    In LA, the protestors were given 72 hours to leave. When they left, the taxpayer had to pay $2.3 million to clean up their trash, feces and urine, & rotting food. Some parts of the area were unsafe for human traffic until the areas were cleaned with sanitizing solutions.

    Are you aware of some of the nazi era anti Jewish hate signs and slurs that came from the occupy groups?

    What is it about Jews that bothers you so?

  5. Blouise, yes I have noticed Bill’s true colors are coming out. When confronted with some stuff he cannot wiggle out of, rather than deal with the hypothetical questions that are based on truth, he resorts to ad hominems, strawmen, and outright lies. Since Godwin’s law has already been proven, I am comfortable in observing that Goebbels and Himmler would be proud of him, not to mention Karl Rove. He has learned well from them. Attack the opponent’s strength and hope it will stick.

    The fact the 99% and their police minions are running so scared is because the OWS movement has struck a chord down deep in their limbic systems. Perhaps in some dimly remembered past life, they recall being aristocrats during the French Revolution. For all the bluster, the fear is palpable on wall street and in the banks.

  6. Oh yeah, at least some of your “explanations” are based either outright lies or half truths. That has been an ongoing problem for me in dozens of cases over the past forty years as I have watched officers testify. Kind of like that officer who was only doing 40 miles an hour through that intersection until forensic proof surfaced he was doing 78 at the time of impact.

    As I said, it would be kind of fun to get you on cross examination. Keep digging. Hope you like Chinese food ’cause you are well on your way.

  7. Has anyone actually been to an OWS event? I have and was even a “Peacekeeper” (someone who is supposed to help with “crowd control” and typically wears a safety vest for id).

    I can say first hand that it was an incredibly peaceful and respectful event with close cooperation between the police and OWS to avoid any problems. There were a few individual “protesters” who had absolutely nothing to do with OWS associated with outlandish and bigoted messages on the fringe that were ostrizied/ignored by everyone from the OWS. All in all they have been remarkably peaceful and uplifting events.

    Free speech means protecting the right to speak of those whose words and message is most offensive to us personally. It is why we allow Nazi’s to march in Skokie, or religious fanatics to protest the funerals of fallen soldiers. It is the same principle by which even the most seemingly guilty person is still entitled to the presumption of innocence and trial even if we have to pay for their defense.

    Once we begin to draw the line on what is acceptable speech or not we risk drawing the line on our own words and ideas. If we are to err in where the line is drawn it is far better to do so by allowing the widest range of speech then the narrowest. If there is a cost to free speech let us bear it thankfully as a welcomed expression of our rights rather then a burden on our pockets, even when the message is not to our liking. some may prefer the cost of police and clean-up of a ticker tape parade for heroes then a protest against a greedy society, but in the end they are both a celebration of the fundamental right to free speech.

    it is perhaps an axiom of power that those who have it do their best to hold on to it and those without it must fight to be heard. If we can celebrate the Boston Tea Party* as an expression of protest on the road to the founding of the nation, surely we have a place to allow and celebrate a protest against the same and even greater inequity of today. Not surprisingly those who wave the flag of freedom the highest seem to have a way of only concerning themselves with their own freedom without minding to take away the freedom of others..

    *Note: in fact the Boston Tea Party was really a protest of the wealthy who didn’t want to pay a tax even though it went largely to the cost of defending the colonies. Private property was destroyed. As such the Boston Tea Party is a fitting symbol of today’s Tea Party. Needless to say, you might also recall the Tparty had its start during the Healthcare debate when they shouted down discussion of the issues making it all but impossible to conduct town hall meetings.

  8. OS Bill gets some of his ideas from the mainstream media as well. I recall an article in Huff Post headline – Occupy Oakland murder. The article described a murder but only after a few paragraphs did the writer quote a police officer who said that this was an Oakland violent incident, it was a bad neighborhood. It had nothing to do with OWS. When I was watching one of the morning shows, ABC, CBS, or NBC, forget which at this pointm, they told the story of the shooting at the White House. The reported explained did not know who or why and then stated “Occupy is a half a mile away so he MAY have been hiding out there.
    Sadly you no longer need just Fox to distort the news.

    As for the article, hopefully, the saying “As California goes, so goes the nation” is not prophetic.

  9. “Are you aware of some of the nazi era anti Jewish hate signs and slurs that came from the occupy groups? What is it about Jews that bothers you so?”


    I happen to be proudly Jewish and a supporter of Israel to boot. The charge of anti-Jewishness by OWS is a phony one. All of your charges against OWS are overblown and phony. When you watch FOXNews so often you begin to believe their propaganda. Then to there is the work of
    Counter Intelligence activities. In NYC for instance it was shown that the police were picking up homeless alcoholics and dropping them off a Zucotti Park. The trick of inserting agent provocateurs has been operable in this country since the beginnings of the Labor Movement. Look up the history of the Pinkerton’s/Mollie McGuires if you doubt me.

    Secondly, even though there have been documented instances of unwarranted police brutality against peaceful OWS supporters, most haven’t been because the coverage by the press was limited and means of taking photographs were destroyed.

    Third, the Tea Baggers had many people holding up very frightening signs implying assassination and other dire threats to the President. May were shown to be openly armed. Beyond that they disrupted legitimate meetings of congress people with their constituents, yet the police stood by. Why is that.

    Let’s look beyond that though. LEO’s generally come from the broad working class of people. You know very well that today Cops are getting screwed right and left by layoffs, overtime reduction and internal politics. This doesn’t even mention the bureaucratic red tape thrown up that hamper your ability to do your jobs. Yet in general LEO’s support the people who could be called the 1% politically and generally vote conservative. You are treated like crap by the current political system, except for the Pols who come to your funerals and preach pious respect for your work, while at the same time screwing you on pay, pensions and working hours. This is the same for the military, who are praised when overseas and screwed when they get back.

    I don’t get it. I know that the history of American policing was always one of the wealthy getting protection (See any history of Frontier lawmen, Wyatt Earp for instance) from the poor. Most LEO’s are not dumb, yet they identify with the people who are screwing them and not with the screwed like themselves.

    Just in case you tell me I don’t understand, you’d be wrong, I do because I’ve got a history of working with both police and prosecutors. As far as telling me the crap about the dangerous working conditions, I worked alone for many years in the most famous “bad” areas in NYC, day and night. Most of them were places where the News would say police wouldn’t patrol alone. “Fort Apache” in the Bronx was one of them that I covered, unarmed, on foot and alone. I was never once attacked in those areas and yes occasionally I’d see stuff happening like open drug dealing that I’d report and the police would ignore me. Now the truth is I’m a big guy, who looks even bigger. My shoulder length hair (I had hair then) and my full beard made me look mean, tough and most probably a Narc, so maybe people avoided me. The statistics in NYC though show that most police never even have to draw their guns, except on the range. When will you guys stop identifying with the people who screw you and realize you’re just like the rest of the 99% in the eyes of the 1%? People to be used, screwed and discarded.

  10. Don’t play class warfare with me. If you want more money go earn it. don’t ask the gov’t to force those who earned their money to give it to you. If I don’t feel that taxpayers pay me enough, then I will get a second job, or start my own business, or go to a different department. But I am not going to whine to our local taxpayers, who already pay way too much, to pay me more and more and more and more. I am thankful and very appreciative to the taxpayers for what they pay me now and the small salary increase they have offered when the economy recovers…God willing!

    LEOs identify with those who deserve protection from those who abuse the rights of others. We see the effects of the welfare state every shift of everyday.

    That is the reason the vast majority of police are conservatives. Many are tea party members. We see everyday, people who are generational abusers of taxpayer kindness. 90% of all crime is committed by 5% of the people. And of those 5%— the overwhelming major are habitual recipients of taxpayer handouts.

    Did you know that since the 3 strike law took effect on CA, our crime rate is down to 1950’s levels in most areas? It is amazing that once you get a certain element off the streets,(like habitual criminals) the streets become much safer.

    And LEO’s couldn’t care less what the crooks economic status might be. I’ve arrested millionaires, wealthy business owners, landlords and their kids. But my everyday work involves the investigation of street crime; and the overwhelming majority of those crooks have an entitlement attitude.

    There isn’t much difference, in the crook’s minds, between expecting taxpayers to give him something he wants, and taking what he wants from his neighbor. It takes just a small step in logic to get to that point.

    As for your assertion that New York City police never un-holster their guns, well in CA it is a different world I guess.

    • Bill,

      Read your last comment. Given that and your whole history here of not knowing the law, I doubt you even are a LEO. What I do know is that you either are, hope to be, or identify with people who could care less about the citizens of this country. In short nothing but a no-nothing tea bagger. A waste to deal with because you’re incapable of reasoned argument..

  11. Mike S-

    You should cut Bill some slack. Life is very frightening for people who believe everything they hear. He didn’t have the benefit of the Drill Sergeant I had in basic training who gave us some excellent advice: “Believe nothing you hear and only half of what you see, and you will get along just fine”.

    • HenMan,

      Don’t know how else he was, but that Drill Sergeant gave some wise advice. A corollary should be always question what you “know” is fact.

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