SocraticGadfly: SCOTUS further guts the First Amendment

May 27, 2014

SCOTUS further guts the First Amendment

This time, all nine justices were involved, ruling that, in 2004, the Secret Service didn't violate the First Amendment when it moved demonstrators rallying against President George W. Bush further away from him than pro-Bush demonstrators.

Here's the full ruling, which describes exactly why the Secret Service violated the most overlooked part of the First Amendment, the right to assembly, in conjunction with free speech:
When the President made a last-minute decision to have dinner at the outdoor patio area of the Jacksonville Inn’s restaurant before resuming the drive to the cottage, the protesters moved to an area in front of the Inn, which placed them within weapons range of the President. The supporters remained in their original location, where a two-story building blocked sight of, and weapons access to, the patio. At the direction of two Secret Service agents responsible for the President’s security, petitioners here (the agents), local police cleared the area where the protesters had gathered, eventually moving them two blocks away to a street beyond weapons reach of the President. The agents did not require the guests already inside the Inn to leave, stay clear of the patio, or go through a security screening.
And, that's the discrimination part. It assumes that nobody in the restaurant would be a protestor. It also assumes that protestors, as a group, would be more likely to be disposed to violence than the general population. And said ideas run throughout the ruling.

That includes ignoring facts on the ground that were attached to the appeal after the original district court ruling:
The amended complaint also included an excerpt from a White House manual instructing the President’s advance team to “work with the Secret Service and have them ask the local police department to designate a protest area where demonstrators can be placed; preferably not in view of the event site or motorcade route.
None of this is new to many of us, and that's why ...

Sorry, but this is wrong, wrong, wrong. Future Secret Service directors and White House detail directors, in conjunction with presidents, will use this ruling to extend the use of "cattle pens," politely known as "free speech zones," and similar to move protestors even further away from presidents at public events. Soon, I'll be lucky to be in the same city. Having protested against Bush numerous times, and being near to the point of hoping Obama is in Dallas or Austin some weekend, for similar protesting, I might be lucky to be allowed in the same city.

I don't buy the Secret Service argument that a last-minute route change by Bush forced it to take the actions it did. And, like with Citizens United and McCutcheon vs. FCC, this will just become one brick in further restricting protestors' freedom of assembly.

If weapons is the concern, why, there's plenty of weapons besides guns. Molotov cocktails can be thrown a block. Vials of sarin or canisters of mustard gas can spread quickly.  And, especially since the last two presidents have upped the "War on Terror" ante, this is kind of like them being hosted by their own joint petard on non-gun weapons, weapons often associated with terror.

But, that's not the only part of Supreme Court stupidity.

Especially were I to have such a non-gun weapon, or even if I wanted to try to slip a gun into such a situation?

I could just hide on the "supporters" side of the street.

Also, given that, as noted, these actions in 2004 led to further envelope-pushing by the Secret Service, including further use of "free speech zones" to separate people from the president,  and that both "free speech zones" and given that the Secret Service's sister agency, the FBI, conducted pre-emptive raids of supposed dissidents and agitators before the 2008 Republican National Convention in Minneapolis, this is a slippery slope indeed.

And, now, all a president has to do is change his route in some city, somehow, some way, sometime, and voila, We the Protestors can be moved.

Why not do what some people laughed at, when India's new prime minister did it, and just beam an image of the President to some spot as a hologram? I mean, that's about how much bubble presidents are going to want, and seek, in light of this ruling.

It's not just horrible in general, it's horrible that allegedly liberal judges, and/or their clerks, have such limited critical thinking skills. So, Stephen Breyer, Ruth Ginsberg, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, shame on you. Double shame on Ginsberg for authoring the opinion.

Beyond that, it's wrong in continuing the trend of SCOTUS giving too much power to the executive branch. Pre-empting free speech in support of pre-emptive warmongers.

And, since the First Amendment is the most "federalized" amendment of the Constitution's Bill of Rights, what's to stop governors of states for making similar claims for their security details?

Per P.Diddie's comment below, here is the Greenwald list possibility he's referring to.

1 comment:

PDiddie said...

If your name isn't on that list that Greenwald is making public already... it will be.

Look out for drones when you walk outside, my friend.