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Free speech zones

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Reason magazine has an interesting article about “free speech zones” that are set up whenever the President comes into town (and before anyone bashes Bush for being a Nazi or something similarly inflammatory, Clinton did the same thing. Actually, I think the Secret Service started the practice during Clinton’s term).

Now the part of the First Amendment that says “Congress shall make no law…abridging…the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances” is also imperiled. When the far Left The Progressive and far Right The American Conservative both decry the creation of free speech zones into which protesters are corralled whenever the President comes to a town, one should pay attention. These Orwellian “free speech zones” are typically far away from the venue where the visiting President is appearing, so that he can enjoy a Potemkin village experience in which he sees only an adoring populace through his limousine windows. Protesters can peaceably assemble, just out of the President’s sight and earshot.

For those who don’t know me, free speech is my biggest hobby horse. I’ve never supported free speech zones; the entire idea is contradictory (how can something be free if it can only be in a specific area?).

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About Casper

  • Mac Diva, I wasn’t trying to blame anything on Clinton; I was trying to point out that both parties have been equal opportunity offenders when it comes to free speech issues.

    And thanks for the link; I’ll get to it later this weekend…

  • Righto, wKen. This trend to blame everything on Bill Clinton except Mad Cow Disease thing is strange. I wrote one of my law notes on zoning free speech. The concept dates back to at least the company towns of the 1900s, most famously examined in Marsh v. Alabama, (1946). The governments of those towns controlled their peons absolutely, including what they could say at home or in the market or on the playground, which were on company owned property. But, I digress. The Bush administration has, in this area, as well as others, used post 9/11 anti-terrorism hysteria to take a more hardline approach to protesters than ever before. That includes sometimes corralling them so far away from Bush or Cheney they may as well not be there.

    Casper, I’ve written regularly about free speech at Mac-a-ro-nies because it is an area of the law that interests me, too. At some point, I should compile those entries. One you may find intriguing is here.

  • Use of special “zones” for separating crowds from an event go back at least to Nixon, but Bush is the first president that I know of to seperate those that disagree with him into such closed-off areas, while allowing supporters free access to his appearances. Free Speech zones, as enforced by the current administration, are not content neutral. That should bother anyone concerned with personal freedom, as Bush will not be President forever, and the next viewpoint pushed behind the barrier may well be your own.