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View Diary: Man Wearing 'Occupy Everything' Jacket Arrested At First Amendment-Free Zone In SCOTUS Building (222 comments)

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  •  Well if they really are rigorously consistent (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Quicklund

    then that makes this somewhat more acceptable.

    Personally, though, I think it would send a better message if an institution with such real importance to civil rights would go as far as possible to err on the side of more rather than less freedom.

    “What’s the use of having developed a science well enough to make predictions if, in the end, all we’re willing to do is stand around and wait for them to come true?” - Sherwood Rowland

    by jrooth on Tue Mar 05, 2013 at 08:35:59 AM PST

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    •  "err on the side of more rather than less freedom" (6+ / 0-)

      I think if they did that they would probably be getting sued every week.  The safest course for them to take is to prohibit all advocacy messages.  Once they get into the business of deciding which advocacy to allow and which to prohibit, they're asking for 1st Amendment-based challenges, and they'd probably be losing a lot of those cases.

      •  I'm not arguing for an inconsistent standard (0+ / 0-)

        just a more liberal one.

        “What’s the use of having developed a science well enough to make predictions if, in the end, all we’re willing to do is stand around and wait for them to come true?” - Sherwood Rowland

        by jrooth on Tue Mar 05, 2013 at 08:58:34 AM PST

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        •  A "more liberal standard" means that you have (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          VClib

          this right outside the door of the courtroom in the SCOTUS building on a regular basis.  A "more liberal standard" means that, not only can serious people protest there, but every wacko on the earth can protest there.  

          And it's a pretty small building.  That would be completely disruptive to the functioning of the Court.

          •  Absolutely every wacko has the same rights (0+ / 0-)

            as we eminently sane folks do.

            And a more liberal standard doesn't mean absolutely everything goes.  One could allow printed shirts and jackets without allowing signs or loud chanting or whatever.

            I really fail to see how a jacket with writing on it disrupts anything, any more than a symbol like a cross or a star of David or a swastika does.

            “What’s the use of having developed a science well enough to make predictions if, in the end, all we’re willing to do is stand around and wait for them to come true?” - Sherwood Rowland

            by jrooth on Tue Mar 05, 2013 at 09:29:50 AM PST

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            •  Because if people could protest inside (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Smoh, Catte Nappe, Villanova Rhodes

              the SCOTUS building, you'd have people there all the time wearing stuff or carrying signs.  And then how do you restrict people from saying things?

              What you would have, for example, is a group of people who are anti-abortion at the Court on a regular basis, wearing shirts with pictures of dead fetuses, hoping to catch a justice, or even one of the law clerks or secretaries, going to the Court cafeteria so they could tell them all about God and "dead babies."  

              Or, at the very least, they'd be trying to talk to every tourist who comes into the building to see the history of the SCOTUS and to see the courtroom, and tell them what God thinks about "dead babies."  

              It's a small building, like I said. I don't think you want that to be going on constantly.  The justices and their staffs have the right to do their work in their place of business without constant protests (even if they aren't loud protests) from people, and I have a right to go see this important place in our democracy without being accosted by those people while I'm reading the displays about the Court.  

              •  How does banning words on shirts (or not) (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                JamesGG

                have anything to do with what people say?

                Are you making some sort of slippery slope argument?  If one gives even a millimeter then one necessarily gives up everything?

                “What’s the use of having developed a science well enough to make predictions if, in the end, all we’re willing to do is stand around and wait for them to come true?” - Sherwood Rowland

                by jrooth on Tue Mar 05, 2013 at 09:59:09 AM PST

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                •  So for the sake of argument... (3+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  coffeetalk, Smoh, Villanova Rhodes

                  ...let's cut out the part where advocates actually say something, and just look at what would be likely to happen if the Supreme Court changed only the rule that requires that people cover up clothing with messages on matters of political or social controversy.

                  If you think that the Supreme Court opening the building to clothing with controversial messages wouldn't result in the building being packed tomorrow (and all subsequent days) with people wearing t-shirts with pictures of dead fetuses or anti-abortion slogans—and packed to the point where it is impossible for others to, say, look at the historical exhibits in the building—in the hopes of even a sliver of a chance that a Supreme Court justice would see those dead fetuses and be moved to ban abortion, you're fooling yourself.

                  "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

                  by JamesGG on Tue Mar 05, 2013 at 10:18:47 AM PST

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                  •  Wait ... I thought images (crosses, etc.) are fine (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    JamesGG

                    so if we're really being content neutral, pictures of dead fetuses should be fine under current policy.  It's only the printed slogans that are out.

                    So why isn't the place already packed?

                    As for "packed" - as I said below set a limit on how many admitted at any one time and make it first-come first-served.

                    “What’s the use of having developed a science well enough to make predictions if, in the end, all we’re willing to do is stand around and wait for them to come true?” - Sherwood Rowland

                    by jrooth on Tue Mar 05, 2013 at 11:18:26 AM PST

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                    •  The current rule isn't just words. (2+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      Smoh, Villanova Rhodes

                      The current rule bars "a flag, banner, or device designed or adapted to bring into public notice a party, organization, or movement."

                      Images of dead fetuses would qualify under that policy; depending on the nature of the religious message, religious messaging might qualify as well.

                      As for the first-come, first-served language, I don't think that would necessarily make the situation any better; if abortion opponents knew that this was the policy, you can be quite sure that a big pack of them would be the very first people in line with their fetus t-shirts every morning, and they'd hang around inside until they closed the building at night.

                      Limiting the number of people admitted might keep the abortion opponents from packing the place out, but it wouldn't make the historical exhibits or other stuff for tourists inside any more accessible to the people visiting for non-advocacy purposes.

                      "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

                      by JamesGG on Tue Mar 05, 2013 at 11:30:57 AM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  OK, then ... (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        JamesGG

                        Why are not crosses and the like barred?  A cross is certainly a "device designed or adapted to bring into public notice a party, organization, or movement." (specifically Christianity)  

                        “What’s the use of having developed a science well enough to make predictions if, in the end, all we’re willing to do is stand around and wait for them to come true?” - Sherwood Rowland

                        by jrooth on Tue Mar 05, 2013 at 11:56:48 AM PST

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  Depending on the size of the cross... (1+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          Smoh

                          ...or the religious messaging it carries, I think it could run afoul of that rule.

                          A little cross around someone's neck, I don't think would be an issue; an overtly proselytizing message might be, depending on the situation and nature of the message.

                          It might also be argued that a cross is a form of religious clothing, like a hijab or a priest's collar, in which case it would be permitted under the free exercise clause. If I'd gone to the Supreme Court on Ash Wednesday, should I have been required to scrub the ashes off of my forehead?

                          "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

                          by JamesGG on Tue Mar 05, 2013 at 12:02:55 PM PST

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                          •  Wait ... the free exercise clause has more force (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            JamesGG

                            than the free speech and assembly clauses?

                            And yes.  If this guy can't have a message on his jacket, you shouldn't get to have a message on your forehead.

                            “What’s the use of having developed a science well enough to make predictions if, in the end, all we’re willing to do is stand around and wait for them to come true?” - Sherwood Rowland

                            by jrooth on Tue Mar 05, 2013 at 12:09:22 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  What's the alternative? (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            Smoh

                            Would you suggest that observant Muslim women must remove their hijabs to enter the Supreme Court building, or observant Jewish men their yarmulkes, forcing them to choose between transgressing their deeply-held religious customs or being barred entry to the Supreme Court building?

                            "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

                            by JamesGG on Tue Mar 05, 2013 at 12:12:28 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  No, my suggestion you may recall (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            JamesGG

                            is to allow printed messages on clothing.

                            “What’s the use of having developed a science well enough to make predictions if, in the end, all we’re willing to do is stand around and wait for them to come true?” - Sherwood Rowland

                            by jrooth on Tue Mar 05, 2013 at 12:17:59 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  I think we disagree on where that would lead... (2+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            jrooth, Smoh

                            ...and since neither of us can really present any evidence for our hypothetical scenarios, there's not a lot more we can say here. Thanks for the discussion.

                            "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

                            by JamesGG on Tue Mar 05, 2013 at 12:39:12 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                •  Again, it's a small building. (3+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Smoh, BachFan, Villanova Rhodes

                  And if you open it up to people wearing shirts like that, you are liable to have a hundred anti abortion people there on a regular basis, wearing shirts with pictures of dead fetuses.  Even if you had enough police around to make sure they don't actually say a word (impossible), the fact that they could have a large group of people all wearing shirts with dead fetuses walk in front of the law clerks when they go to around the building, or sit in tables in the cafeteria with pictures of dead fetuses while the law clerks (or even the Justices) are eating, making it difficult for the Court staff to go about their business.  If you are a law clerk, 25 people with pictures of dead fetuses and "God will send you to hell" on their t-shirts following you through the halls, or waiting for you when you walk to the cafeteria, or staring you down while you try to eat in the cafeteria (even if the police could prevent them from actually SAYING to you "God will send you to hell for killing babies") is pretty disruptive.  

                    If you allowed protests (even if they are just visual) in the building, protesters would be there all the time, on a regular basis.  If you allow that, you will ATTRACT lots and lots of people whose only purpose for being at the building is in the hopes that they can send a message.  (And if you've been there, the wait to get in to see it as a tourist is long enough already.)   You have to make a rule that applies across the board.  Either (1) you let in every single person with a picture of a dead fetus on a shirt that says "God will send you to hell for killing babies" or (2) you say this building is not the place for advocating a movement.  I prefer option 2.  And if it's content neutral, and applied consistently across the board, option 2 is completely constitutional.  

                  The SCOTUS building is not a museum.  It is an office building where a lot of people go every day to conduct the legal business of this country.  And they are entitled to go about their office to do their work without being faced with scores of people trying to send them a political message.  The fact that we allow people in to see their office because of its symbolic significance  doesn't mean that they should have to be faced with group after group standing in the halls of their office building, or in the cafeteria of their office building, with a political message to share.  

                  •  Set a maximum # admitted at any given time (0+ / 0-)

                    and make it first come first served.

                    And I missed the part in the Constitution where we have a right not to be faced with a political message.

                    “What’s the use of having developed a science well enough to make predictions if, in the end, all we’re willing to do is stand around and wait for them to come true?” - Sherwood Rowland

                    by jrooth on Tue Mar 05, 2013 at 11:14:43 AM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  They already do that (2+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      Smoh, Villanova Rhodes

                      which is why there's often a wait for someone who wants to see the historic displays to get in.

                      Having huge additional crowds of protesters would disrupt the ability of citizens to see the historic building and displays that are part of the building. Far fewer tourists could get in if every day there were large numbers of people with protest shirts waiting in line, day after day, to get in, in the hope of having a justice or even a law clerk see their message.    It's a small building.  It doesn't hold a lot of people.  You'd have more people turned away.  

                      Protesters have other options.  Those who want to see the building do not.   The purpose of the building is two fold (1) to serve as an office building; and (2) to let people see some of the history and symbolic significance of the Supreme Court.  If you added a third (3) the exercise of First Amendment rights, you'd interfere with the ability of people to do (1) and (2).  There's no reason to interfere with purposes (1) and (2) if there are other nearby options for people to exercise First Amendment rights.  

                      That's the same reason why the government can prevent you from using the streets,or a public park, for a protest without a permit.  When a large number of people exercise their First Amendment rights on certain public property (like streets or a public park), you can interfere with the ability of others to use that public property in the way it was INTENDED to be used.  You interfere with the ability of drivers to drive on the street, or with the ability of others to use the park for picnics, or outdoor games, or walking dogs, or whatever the park is intended to provide to the people.  Government can restrict your first amendment rights in a content-neutral way so as to allow others to have use of the public property in the way the property was intended to be used -- as long as you have reasonable alternative options for exercising your first amendment rights.  If you allow protesters (people who are there for the primary purpose of conveying a political message) to flood the SCOTUS building on a regular basis, not only do you interfere with the orderly operations of the office, but you crowd out the people who want to see the building.  Protesters can go right to the sidewalk outside to do their protests; people can't go anywhere else to see the Supreme Court building .

                      •  Isn't all this speculation a form (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        JamesGG

                        of prior restraint?  Have we actually seen the Supreme Court flooded with protesters day after day to the point that it is impossible for the public to access the building as intended?   Shouldn't we have to demonstrate that there is an actual problem in a specific instance which is interfering with a purpose sufficiently compelling to justify abridging the first amendment before we go ahead and do so?

                        By the way, this discussion brings up the separate but somewhat related problem of what comprises "reasonable alternative options for exercising your first amendment rights."  That's something that is very much under fire with the creation of "national special security events" and their associated "free speech zones" situated far out of sight and hearing.

                        “What’s the use of having developed a science well enough to make predictions if, in the end, all we’re willing to do is stand around and wait for them to come true?” - Sherwood Rowland

                        by jrooth on Tue Mar 05, 2013 at 12:05:27 PM PST

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  This isn't prior restraint at all. (4+ / 0-)
                          Isn't all this speculation a form of prior restraint?  Have we actually seen the Supreme Court flooded with protesters day after day to the point that it is impossible for the public to access the building as intended?Shouldn't we have to demonstrate that there is an actual problem in a specific instance which is interfering with a purpose sufficiently compelling to justify abridging the first amendment before we go ahead and do so?
                          I'd wager most courtrooms in this country haven't themselves been the sites for situations in which people engaging in acts which would have been protected political speech outside the courtroom have created a disruption by doing so inside the courtroom—and yet they all have rules against such things.

                          That's because this really isn't a prior restraint issue. Prior restraint is when the government restricts something from being spoken at all without an extremely compelling reason for doing so. Time, place, and manner restrictions have never been considered prior restraint, nor have they ever been required to clear the same high legal bar as prior restraint.

                          If this situation were one of prior restraint, this guy would have been told he couldn't wear that jacket anywhere; as the situation actually was, he could have gone just outside on to the building's steps and worn that jacket to his heart's content without anyone being on firm legal ground in telling him to remove it.

                          "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

                          by JamesGG on Tue Mar 05, 2013 at 12:31:46 PM PST

                          [ Parent ]

                        •  You need to do a little more looking at (4+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          Smoh, Catte Nappe, Villanova Rhodes, VClib

                          time, place and manner restrictions.  That's what you are talking about.  As JamesGG points out, this is not "prior restraint"  -- that means you can't say it (or publish it) at all, anywhere.  

                          As far as alternatives for exercising the First Amendment, yes there certainly are issues when the "free speech zones are blocks -- or even miles -- away from the event being protested.  But there's no argument that the sidewalk outside of the SCOTUS building -- which the Justices can see from their windows -- is not a reasonable alternative.  

                          You don't have a First Amendment right to "speak" (orally, or through visuals) anywhere, and any time, you want.  Government can't ban from EVER speaking (at any time or any place), but it can place "time, place, and manner restrictions" on speech, saying, for example, you can't have a protest gathering of 50 people in a park in the residential neighborhood where Justice Scalia lives at 2 in the morning.  They can say, you can't go past  Senator Schumer's receptionist into his office whenever you want to exercise your free speech right to tell him what you think of legislation. They can say, you can't stand in the middle of the freeway at rush hour to exercise your free speech rights.  They can say you can't have any political t-shirts or signs within so many feet of a polling place.  You may not AGREE with the time, place, and manner restrictions.  But as long as they are related to some kind of legitimate government interest (and keeping order for others, or keeping a facility available for others, or letting others exercise their rights without being interrupted by protesters is a legitimate government interest), are content-neutral, and give you some reasonable (not necessarily perfect in your view, but reasonable) alternatives, such restrictions are constitutional.  

    •  I agree that unless this guy intended to push it (0+ / 0-)

      until he got arrested, this was one of the lamer efforts on the part of the SCOTUS police.

      I see what you did there.

      by GoGoGoEverton on Tue Mar 05, 2013 at 08:45:34 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

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