We all thought it was unbelievably obvious that to make protesters protest far, far away, out of eye- and ear-shot of The Powers That Be (for whose benefit the protest, at least in theory) was, uh, missing the point. Criminal would also be an apt description. Thank whoever you thank for your blessings that on our side we have the ACLU.
From the ACLU's blog:
We argued that this discriminatory treatment violated the First Amendment right to free speech. More specifically, we contended that it was a form of viewpoint discrimination. The Supreme Court has written that "the First Amendment forbids the government to regulate speech in ways that favor some viewpoints or ideas at the expense of others." That is what happened when our clients' messages criticizing the president were blocked while the pro-Bush supporters were allowed to express their views unimpeded. Some of the defendants in the case — a Secret Service agent and a couple of officers from the sheriff's department — asked the judge to terminate our case before it reached a jury.
Today, the district court held that our clients' case deserves to move forward. It held that "First Amendment law forbidding viewpoint-based restrictions on speech was...clearly established at the time of the event and would put a reasonable official on notice that disparate treatment of protesters based on their viewpoint was unlawful." After devoting 20 pages to carefully reviewing the facts, it concluded that a reasonable jury could conclude that law enforcement engaged in viewpoint discrimination.
The case is not over. To win, we will need to convince a jury to believe our clients' story of what happened rather than law enforcement's version. Also, it is possible the defendants will try to appeal at this point. However, today's decision is an important one not just to vindicate the rights of the clients in this case, but to bring home once again that where the rare opportunity arises to express our views directly to our most powerful officials, we all have an equal right to do so, no matter how vehemently we may disagree with them. (Read more)