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Friday, September 21, 2007

VIDEO: Citizens arrested in D.C. for reading the Constitution

I was going to preface this with some commentary. Then I decided that this is something that would be better for you to watch and decide for yourself whether this is right or wrong.


Anonymous said...

This is a tough one. On the one hand, the video starts *after* the alleged offense, so technically, we simply don't have enough information about what happened.

Don't get me wrong, the way things are going, I wouldn't put it past the government or police to shut down peaceful protests, especially in D.C., and especially since it's been done before. But, the bottom line is, the video doesn't show what happened.

On the other hand, if that last guy in the black T-shirt was being truthful, it sounds like it was a peaceful anti-war protest and that they were probably arrested because their protest was inconvenient to the government officials who were giving their pro-war speeches. If true, that could be bad depending on the exact circumstances.

As far as the police not making comments, that's half and half too. I doubt the police have a legal obligation to tell the random pedestrian with a camera why someone else is getting arrested. *But*, they *do* (or at least should) have a legal obligation to tell the people getting arrested why they're getting arrested.

The government officials probably made arrangements to use that particular space at a particular time, and as Americans, they have a right to speak too. So, how is this for a compromise...

The pro-war government officials should have made arrangements for the protesters to use the space, the stage if there was one, any audio/video equipment, etc., to make their own statements *after* the officials were done having their word--with the police standing by to *protect the peace* of *everyone* involved rather than just arresting people for being rude and interrupting. That way, everyone gets to have their say, uncensored and uninterrupted.

If fact, as Americans with free speech, I think that's the way all public venues like this should go. If a senator, congressperson, presidential candidate, etc. can have the connections to make a public speech on tax-payers' money, I doubt it would cost too much more for them to allow any space and/or audio equipment for an equal amount of time for citizens to give their viewpoints after the officials are done. That way, no one is interrupting someone else or wasting the time of someone who made arrangements to use a location or equipment.

To me, this is a reasonable compromise, because if everyone has the right to speak, then interrupting someone while they're speaking is hindering their rights too.

I'd even think that a presidential candidate would gain points if he made similar free-speech arrangements at every stop along his campaign trail.

Granted, that's an ideal situation, and life is never ideal. That's why I don't 100% blame the police for doing what they did. **If** the protesters were being sufficiently disruptive enough, the police were probably forced to do what they did to protect the peace (notice, they didn't arrest eveyone who was protesting).

On the other hand, if the protesters feel they don't have a significant enough venue to express their views, they probably feel forced to be rude and interrupt someone else's speech or not get heard at all.

I don't feel the protesters were arrested for reading the Constitution but for disrupting the peace. So, the real legal questions at hand are: (1) Just how disruptive were they being, enough to actually get arrested??? (quite possibly not), (2) Just how quick were government officials and/or police to shutting down the protest, because as long as it's peaceful, giving them a few minutes couldn't hurt (but, shut them down immediately, and sure, we're heading toward police state).

Again, it's hard to tell just from the video shown who deserved what.

Any chance you know... Does D.C. or any other major U.S. city have a "Speaker's Corner" like London, UK, does? It's been about 12 years since I was in London, so for all I know, London doesn't even have it any more.