We have often discussed how advocating for free speech often places us in troubling company. Those who are targeted for arrest are often the loudest and most obnoxious among us. Ace Burns is one of those people. Burns, 34, whose real name is Israel Burns,, is the self-proclaimed leader of the “FTP movement (which he defined in various ways including “Fire To Property”). Burns was taken into the police station after alluding to the possibility that the Diamond District in New York would be burned to the ground. It is a prototypical violent speech cases and, as many on this blog will not be surprised to read, I believe it raises a serious concern for free speech.
Ironically, we previously discussed the issue of violent speech in a column where I argued against charging Michael Brown’s stepfather during the Ferguson rioting.
Burns told a reporter with Fox News
“You know I’m a leader of this ‘FTP’ movement. It means a lot of things. It can mean free the people, it can mean for the people, it can also mean ‘fire to property.’ You know that’s very possible …
Today, I’m giving a demonstration from Barclay’s Center at 6 p.m. to City Hall, and that’s the first stop — and we’re hoping [Mayor] De Blasio and [Gov.] Cuomo come out and talk to us and give the youth some direction. But if they don’t, then [the] next stop is the Diamond District,” he said, referring to a block on Manhattan’s 47th Street known for jewelry shops. “And gasoline, thanks to Trump, is awfully cheap. So, we’re giving them a chance right now to do the right thing.”
The police responded by saying that they searched for the man in the interview and “took him in.”
Likewise, in NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware Co., white merchants in Claiborne County, Mississippi, involved a civil action based on a statement made by NAACP Field Secretary Charles Evers that
“black people that any ‘uncle toms’ who broke the boycott would ‘have their necks broken’ by their own people.” The Supreme Court found that Evers’ “emotionally charged rhetoric . . . did not transcend the bounds of protected speech set forth in Brandenburg. . . . An advocate must be free to stimulate his audience with spontaneous and emotional appeals for unity and action in a common cause. When such appeals do not incite lawless action, they must be regarded as protected speech.”
43 thoughts on ““Gasoline is Awfully Cheap”: Police Action Against “Ace Burns” Raises Free Speech Concerns”
Two observations, Professor Turley:
1 – Mr. Burns specifically chose to threaten the Diamond District, which is mostly populated by businesses run by Jews. Would you feel threats by a white power activist to firebomb Harlem were also protected speech?
2 – Firebombing seems to be common during this outbreak of violent organized protest. Britannica defines terrorism as the calculated use of violence to create a general climate of fear in a population and thereby to bring about a particular political objective. Burns’ violent threat was a credible threat to commit violence if city leaders didn’t meet with him and his friends.
““You know I’m a leader of this ‘FTP’ movement. It means a lot of things. It can mean free the people, it can mean for the people, it can also mean ‘fire to property.’”
Yep, I knew that moving files via File Transfer Protocol caused our server to Halt and Catch Fire but nobody listened.
I guess I’m the only guy here who figured “this “FTP” movement” might also mean “F**k the Police”.
alluding to the possibility. Elude is to evade.
There was one sentence just too cute for words:
Burns was making inflammatory statements.
It is questionable whether Brandenburg v. Ohio applies here. Brandenburg dealt with a statute prohibiting the incitement of others to violence. Here, the speaker claimed to lead a movement that would set fire to the Diamond District. Thus, his statement could be interpreted as his claiming that he would be involved in doing so and not just incite others to do so. Thus, the question is whether the statement was a true threat. I do not think this was a true threat so I do not think he should be prosecuted. However, the fact that he mentioned gasoline being cheap could be interpreted to mean that he thought through the details of budgeting for such a plan. Thus, it is less likely be interpreted as a hyperbolic statement.
they wont lock him up, not for long. they make the arrest, search his phone, pull his computer research, it’s just rabble rousing garbage, they will cut him loose
if they want to crack down on riot then they should target blm organizers. they don’t. it’s a charade
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