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. Great post….now if you look from the side of the municipal risk pool…you’ll understand why they are encouraging the protesters to take these classes….They were arrested….and wrongfully in most circumstances….this is an admission of guilt….do they then give up the right to sue for the illegal arrest?…..Just wondering…..

  2. HenMen, you say “You Don’t Have Any Rights!”
    There is a precedent for this position….
    Page 19 of Roger Taneys opinion in Dred Scott:
    “[slaves have] no rights which the white man [is] bound to respect”

  3. FREE SPEECH: The right to say what I say you are allowed to say, when I say you are allowed to say it, where I say you are allowed to say it, and who I say you are allowed to say it to without having to pay anything for it except for what I say you have to pay. Other then that you are absolutely Free to say whatever you want.

  4. “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.”

    That says it all right there. I suggest that both of these “attorneys” need to be investigated as do their ties to judge(s) that offered this “option”. I smell kickback. Good job, Larry.

  5. I have a suggestion for those who want to explain to the City and the Police the notion of the right of assembly and the exercise of free speech. The two go together and they require territory–dry land for the soap box with room for those assembled. So they have taken our territory. Let us take some of their territory, or territory they claim to have sole proprietorship. The “Radio Free LA Project”: A thousand people buy radios which will transmit on the channels the cops use to talk to each other. Put those radios on vehicles and range around while sending messages to the City on the Channel 16 or Channel the cops employ in L.A. Let them get a taste of having their speech territory taken from them. Maybe they will let us go to some park and bark. Project number two would work well today in any of those cities which have imposed a curfew on free speech. Go to the Mayor’s church for midnight mass and sing some protest songs while they are inside getting all holy and rolly and exercising their
    First Amendment right of religious expression.

    Now that is two projects, perhaps some of you can chime in and help the First Amendment out here.

  6. Raff,

    Great post, but the irony is almost too much to bear, not to mention the rage boiling around my edges.

  7. “Sit Down And Shut The Hell Up! You Don’t Have Any Rights! That Will Be $355 Please! Thank You And Come Again!”

  8. Police chief Carter says “The First Amendment is not absolute”, meaning no right is absolute, and echoing what Bloomberg said just before he kicked OWS out of Zucotti Park. By “not absolute” did he mean “not important”?
    No right is absolute, true, but no wrong is absolute either. It depends.

    Calling it camping does not make it camping. It is assembling to petition, and so it is protected activity. What is your “clear and present danger” or what exactly is your line of thought?
    Or are you just always right?

  9. rafflaw,

    I hadn’t heard this story. I guess free speech isn’t eaxctly free in LA.


    Goodnight, Moon! Goodnight, America!
    By Richard Reeves
    Real Clear Politics, 12/23/11

    We are becoming a trickle-down police state. The latest clue to that is here in Los Angeles and perhaps will avoid national conversations, although it rings like something left over from the 1920s, the ’30s and the ’60s. I quote from the lead of an inside page story by Kate Linthicum of the Los Angeles Times:

    “Many Occupy L.A. protesters arrested during demonstrations in recent months are being offered a unique chance to avoid court trials: pay $355 to a private company for a lesson in free speech.”

    So free speech is no longer free. It costs $355. What exactly is free speech then? Apparently it is now defined by a private company called American Justice Associates, which gets all the money from people who suggested that perhaps certain financial inequities have now been built into the land of the free and the home of the brave.

    It is time, I would suggest, to read Tom Paine, Henry David Thoreau, Aldous Huxley, George Orwell, none of whom worked for American Justice Associates. Imagine that: Our very own all-American re-education camps.

    “The First Amendment is not absolute,” said Los Angeles Chief Deputy City Attorney William Carter. He rambled on about court restrictions and Supreme Court decisions. He said the idea was to teach protesters the nuances of law and free speech.

    Well, here’s my nuance: I am an American and I can say anything I damn well please without the help of American Justice Associates. Beginning with, “Screw you, Mr. Carter.”

  10. The US has a limited government, and it is limited in part by the first amendment: no religion, no censorship, no suppressing dissent.
    So I agree with your post but with one small change. You say “they were arrested because they had the temerity to actually use their First Amendment rights of Free Speech?”

    The “free speech” clause relates to the open examination of ideas.
    The clause related to assemblies to petition is the next one.
    LA is complaining, incorrectly, about the assembly.

    The “free speech” provisions of the California state constitution, article 1 section 2, are even broader than the provisions in the US Constitution. [Pruneyard v Robins 1980]

  11. Wonder what would happen if the local bar association set up “classes” for free to teach “free speech seminars?”

    Don’t answer that; they would not let it happen because lawyers for the local bar association would not be “qualified.”

    I can take an accredited seven hour Continuing Education seminar for half that amount. This is not about anything but making it punitive to exercise free speech rights and make money at the same time. It is what happens when law enforcement and politics gets in bed with business interests.

  12. Would this somehow be just if the class were administered by government employees and the fine used to pay their salaries?

  13. Firefly and Arthur,
    I agree with both of you. I would love to be a fly on the wall of that classroom when Prof. Turley gets to teach the DA!

  14. That is a great idea to have Prof. Turley give a class on free speech if paid by those arrested. My only reservation would be that the DA and other court officers should be required to take the same class at the same time.

  15. So, basically the protestors are being directed to pay a fine to a PRIVATE company that has political ties to the city or county government (or take their chances with a time-consuming trial).

    Boy, nice way to “privatize” our right to assemble, speak and “petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

    And to think California is not even the worst state, rights-wise. Imagine what some of the non-liberal states will think up as a way of dealing with those pesky people who actually believe in our Constitutional rights.

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