Arrest Of Anti-Trump Protester In Georgia Raises Free Speech Concerns

download-2I have been writing about concerns over the current protests are impacting free speech and free press values.  Those concerns are equally present in the arrest in Valdosta, Georgia a young woman protesting with a sign containing obscene language.  Particularly at a time of legitimate anger and demands for reform after the killing of George Floyd, such arrests contravene core political speech by treating the content of the message as a matter of “disorderly conduct.”

The sign is described as obscene language alluding to a lewd act between Sheriff Ashley Paulk and President Donald Trump.

The language may have been obnoxious but it is a political statement at a moment of historical political activism across the country.

The Georgia statute shows the danger of such provisions of subjectivity or bias in enforcing:

16-11-39. Disorderly conduct

(a) A person commits the offense of disorderly conduct when such person commits any of the following:

(1) Acts in a violent or tumultuous manner toward another person whereby such person is placed in reasonable fear of the safety of such person’s life, limb, or health;

(2) Acts in a violent or tumultuous manner toward another person whereby the property of such person is placed in danger of being damaged or destroyed;

(3) Without provocation, uses to or of another person in such other person’s presence, opprobrious or abusive words which by their very utterance tend to incite to an immediate breach of the peace, that is to say, words which as a matter of common knowledge and under ordinary circumstances will, when used to or of another person in such other person’s presence, naturally tend to provoke violent resentment, that is, words commonly called “fighting words”; or

(4) Without provocation, uses obscene and vulgar or profane language in the presence of or by telephone to a person under the age of 14 years which threatens an immediate breach of the peace.

(b) Any person who commits the offense of disorderly conduct shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.

(c) This Code section shall not be deemed or construed to affect or limit the powers of counties or municipal corporations to adopt ordinances or resolutions prohibiting disorderly conduct within their respective limits.

The standard of “obscene and vulgar or profane language” is dangerously subjective and has long been the subject of challenges from free speech advocates. These statutes however have been largely upheld (including in one case swearing at a police officer), though “as applied” challenges have succeeded.

This debate has raged, particularly after Chaplinsky v. State of New Hampshire, 315 U.S. 568 (1942), when Supreme Court allowed for the criminalization of “the lewd and obscene, the profane, the libelous, and insulting or ‘fighting’ words-those which by their very utterance inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace.”  Chaplinsky, 315 U.S. at 571. In that case, Chaplinsky was convicted for confronting another person on a public sidewalk the words, “You are a God d—ed racketeer,” and “a d—ed Fascist and the whole government of Rochester are Fascists or agents of Fascists.”  The Supreme Court stressed that those words constituting fighting words were “no essential part of any exposition of ideas, and are of such slight social value as a step to truth that any benefit that may be derived from them is clearly outweighed by the social interest in order and morality.”

This sign is clearly not fighting words and clearly does contain core political viewpoints.  While police want to defuse flash points in protests, they cannot do so by removing those who are expressing views in inflammatory ways in my view.

 

 

47 thoughts on “Arrest Of Anti-Trump Protester In Georgia Raises Free Speech Concerns”

  1. From the Be Careful What You Wish For Department: A super majority of the Minneapolis City Council announced at a rally that they will vote to abolish the police department. When the young Mayor said he could not support doing that, he was booed out of the rally by the crowd. If the police are dismantled, it will be an interesting social experiment, best observed from afar. At least there will be no police brutality!

    1. Welcome to New Zimbabwe, formerly known as the city of Minneapolis.

      A brand new black/arab Getto Crap hole.

      Nothing racist, it’s just the way some of the dumber ones roll.

      1. Paul C I sent you an email on Honest’s email account……with pictures of what the BLM thugs did to our Courthouse monuments in our little town.

        1. honestlawyer – If I lived in a Democratically controlled city or state, I would get the hell out now. Milwaukee is going to be Chicago 2.0

    1. At least no one was hanged in effigy, the way a right winger did of Michigan’s governor. That said, as a leftie, I don’t like to use vulgarity. However, I don’t think it should be an arresting offense. To each his own. For some reasons, hypocritical Christian patriots like neither the Constitution nor the teachings of Jesus Christ.

  2. David Benson is the God Emperor of Making Stuff Up and owes me forty-four citations (one from the OED, one from the town ordinances and two from the Old Testament), an equation and the source of a quotation, after seventy-eight weeks, and needs to cite all his work from now on. – I know WSU is an ag school, but even it should require its students and faculty to cite sources.

    1. Paul C Schulte, I assure that on professional papers sources are cited.

      By the way, have you had a chance to try the new Cosmic Crisp apple?

      Thought not. Too bad for you.

      1. David Benson is the God Emperor of Making Stuff Up and owes me forty-four citations (one from the OED, one from the town ordinances and two from the Old Testament), an equation and the source of a quotation, after seventy-eight weeks, and needs to cite all his work from now on. – Nice to know you used to know how to do it. However, you are not doing it now, or only occasionally with magazine articles about things you are interested in, not to prove your point.

        BTW, I don’t eat apples, however I do hear they have many fine varieties in Washington.

  3. David Benson is the God Emperor of Making Stuff Up and owes me forty-four citations (one from the OED, one from the town ordinances and two from the Old Testament), an equation and the source of a quotation, after seventy-eight weeks, and needs to cite all his work from now on. – I provided citations to Say.

      1. Or any one else’s. Ergo Sum there were no replies. It is more likely Benson is a made up name and the programmer paid to make a certain level of comment. Quite Common from the way the ruling class of The Collectives have been running things. No way to prove different which means there is no provable human presence without going back in time and fabricating a human presence

        Ad Machina – Saevire ira non fuit curæ

  4. David Benson is the God Emperor of Making Stuff Up and owes me forty-four citations (one from the OED, one from the town ordinances and two from the Old Testament), an equation and the source of a quotation, after seventy-eight weeks, and needs to cite all his work from now on. – He who makes the claim must back it up. No problem with that. BTW, you amuse me. 😉

    1. 3rd attempt.

      Paul C Schulte has for dozens of weeks hounded me for something that he has just made up and elaborated. He started on another commenter. Then he switched to also hounding John Say.

      Not Normal. Talk to a mental health professional, Paul C Schulte! ➿

      1. David Benson is the God Emperor of Making Stuff Up and owes me forty-four citations (one from the OED, one from the town ordinances and two from the Old Testament), an equation and the source of a quotation, after seventy-eight weeks, and needs to cite all his work from now on. – your conduct was so egregious that I started this and added as the weeks went on. https://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/burden-of-proof l think John Say will back me on this.

    1. More than likely just a machine part of the Collective or used to program The Collective as no human presence is demonstrated.

  5. There have been arrest by those who voiced their opposition to BLM. So we are seeing the extremes.

    They are all nuts. Enough is Enough with these demonstrations which are now being fueled by the anti-Trump hating press and anti Trump elite/politicians/global elite/ex-military I love war, Jim Mattis/Mullen and etc.

  6. How about the Antifa-putz who said if he doesn’t get his way he was going to burn down the diamond district. Can we lock him up or do we have to wait for hm to start burning down stores? And while we’re at it, can we charge him with a hate crime since most of those stores are owned and operated by orthodox Jews?

  7. The very omitting of the sign in the posting proves the cops point. Was It omitted because it wasn’t obscene which we all know isn’t protected speech or because it was?

  8. If the young women had wrote a lewd message about the protesters and BLM movement, would she been treated the same way? Silly question, right?

    1. My thoughts exactly. Seeing how NYT can’t even print off-the-narrative opinion pieces anymore, what happens to the free speech rights of the rest of us that aren’t buying into all this?

    1. Why ?

      What would the sign need to have to not be free speech ?

      It is clearly political speech. It therefore subject to the highest protection.

      Government can have neutral restrictions on the place and time of first amendment excercises, but not the content. Nor can they use place and time restructions to foreclose expression.

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