Tag Archives: free speech

Greens condemn brutal ‘police state’ raids, arrests of peaceful protesters and journalists

Greens condemn brutal ‘police state’ raids, arrests of peaceful protesters and journalists outside the GOP convention in St. Paul


For Immediate Release:
Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Scott McLarty, Media Coordinator, 202-518-5624, cell 202-904-7614, mclarty@greens.org
Starlene Rankin, Media Coordinator, 916-995-3805, starlene@gp.org

Green Party members are among those targeted; trumped-up charges are meant to intimidate and crush political dissent, say Greens, who urge media covering the convention to report the brutal treatment of fellow journalists

Combined effort by local police and Feds reveals that Bush’s domestic spy program is aimed at Americans exercising their lawful rights

WASHINGTON, DC — Green Party leaders strongly condemned the brutal police assaults, raids, and arrests on dubious charges targeted at peaceful protesters gathering near the Republican National Convention in St. Paul.

Among those arrested and brutalized are journalists, including Amy Goodman and other Democracy Now! staff (http://www.democracynow.org), and antiwar and progressive activists.

Police have attacked nonviolent demonstrators with concussion grenades, tear gas, pepper spray, and tasers and have raided meetings and activists’ homes.

Police raided the home of Michael Whelan, a long-time Green Party supporter whose Arise Bookstore once housed the party’s local office (see Green Party of Minnesota press release, Sept. 1, http://www.gp.org/press/pr-national.php?ID=99).

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Distributed by the Green Party of the United States http://www.gp.org

Green Party of Minnesota

For Immediate Release
September 1, 2008

Contacts: Rhoda Gilman: (651) 224-6383; Dave Bicking: (612) 276-1213, Spokespersons, Green Party of Minnesota


Greens have been among those targeted for harassment and intimidation by police in a wave of pre-emptive actions taken before the Republican National Convention in St. Paul.

On Saturday police surrounded the home of Michael Whelan, a long-time Green Party supporter, whose Arise Bookstore at one time housed the party’s office. He was host to a group of independent journalists. The police broke down doors and subjected occupants to house arrest. “You figure this would be going on in South Africa, or Russia, not in St. Paul,” Whelan said. “St. Paul is nice.”

The previous night, police had invaded a meeting space in St. Paul rented by the anarchist RNC Welcoming Committee. They seized equipment and subjected some fifty people to handcuffing and search. Next day Monica Bicking, a leading member of the organization, was jailed along with three friends, and her home in Minneapolis was boarded up for alleged violation of city codes.
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Amy Goodman, of Democracy Now!, Unlawfully Arrested at RNC


September 1, 2008

Dennis Moynihan 917-549-5000
Mike Burke 646-552-5107

ST. PAUL, MN—Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman was unlawfully arrested in downtown St. Paul, Minnesota at approximately 5 p.m. local time. Police violently manhandled Goodman, yanking her arm, as they arrested her. Video of her arrest can be seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oYjyvkR0bGQ
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Our illustrious Supreme Court…..

Crooks and Liars has a great piece on the U.S. Supreme’s court decision so far this term:

In one full term, this Court has severely curbed local efforts to promote racial diversity in schools, upheld a right-wing ban on a necessary medical procedure for women, curbed students’ free speech rights, crippled Congress’ ability to keep corporate money out of political advertising, prevented taxpayers from challenging the constitutionality of Bush’s faith-based initiatives, made it almost impossible for women to prevail on claims of longterm sex discrimination . . . and they’re just getting started.

I had read with interesta couple of days ago, and forwarded on to my colleagues, an article on the Court’s decision to curb free speech rights of students in public schools.  Working in a First Amendment school, cases like these are of particular interest in that they may have an impact on that initiative.

Public school teachers are “mouthpieces of the government” and have no free speech rights according

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – When one of Deborah Mayer’s elementary school students asked her on the eve of the Iraq war whether she would ever take part in a peace march, the veteran teacher recalls answering, “I honk for peace.”

Soon afterward, Mayer lost her job and her home in Indiana. She was out of work for nearly three years. And when she complained to federal courts that her free-speech rights had been violated, the courts replied, essentially, that as a public school teacher she didn’t have any.0514 04 1

As a federal appeals court in Chicago put it in January, a teacher’s speech is “the commodity she sells to an employer in exchange for her salary.” The Bloomington, Ind., school district had just as much right to fire Mayer, the court said, as it would have if she were a creationist who refused to teach evolution.

The ruling was legally significant. Eight months earlier, the U.S. Supreme Court had decided in a case involving the Los Angeles district attorney’s office that government employees were not protected by the First Amendment when they faced discipline for speaking at work about controversies related to their jobs. The Chicago appeals court was the first to apply the same rationale to the classroom, an issue that the Supreme Court expressly left unresolved.

But legal analysts said the Mayer ruling was probably less important as a precedent than as a stark reminder that the law provides little protection for schoolteachers who express their beliefs.


As far as the courts are concerned, “public education is inherently a situation where the government is the speaker, and … its employees are the mouthpieces of the government,” said Vikram Amar, a professor at UC’s Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco. Whatever academic freedom exists for college teachers is “much, much less” in public schools, he said.

A recent case from a Los Angeles charter school offers more evidence of the limits teachers face in choosing curricula or seeking redress of grievances. The school’s administrators forbade seventh-graders from reading aloud at a February assembly the award-winning poem “A Wreath for Emmett Till,” about a black teenager beaten to death by white men in 1955.

In an online guide to teaching the poem in grades seven and up, publisher Houghton Mifflin recommends telling students that it will be disturbing; administrators said they feared it would be too much for the kindergartners in the audience and then explained that Till’s alleged whistle at a white woman was inappropriate. When social studies teacher Marisol Alba and a colleague signed letters of protest written by students at the largely African American school, both teachers were fired.

The Mayer ruling was disappointing but not surprising, said Michael Simpson, assistant general counsel of the National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers’ union. For the last decade, he said, federal courts “have not been receptive to arguments that teachers, both K-12 and higher education, have free-speech rights in the classroom.”

That’s unacceptable, said Mayer, 57, who now teaches seventh-graders in Haines City, Fla. She said she’s scraped up enough money, by selling her car, to appeal her case to the Supreme Court, though she doubts the justices will review it.

“If a teacher can be fired for saying those four little words — ‘I honk for peace’ — who’s going to want to teach?” she asked. “They’re taking away free speech at school. … You might just as well get a big television and set it in front of the children and have them watch, (using) the curriculum the school board has.”

On the other hand, said Francisco Negrón, lawyer for the National School Boards Association, if teachers were free to express their viewpoints in class, school boards would be less able to do their job of determining the curriculum and complying with government demands for accountability.

“Teachers bring their creativity, their energy, their skill in teaching the curriculum, but … a teacher in K-12 is really not at liberty to design a curriculum,” said Negrón, who filed arguments with the court in Mayer’s case supporting the Bloomington school district. “That’s the function of the school board.”

The incident occurred in January 2003, when Mayer was teaching a class of fourth- through sixth-graders at Clear Creek Elementary School. As Mayer recalled it later, the question about peace marches arose during a discussion of an article in the children’s edition of Time magazine, part of the school-approved curriculum, about protests against U.S. preparations for war in Iraq.

When the student asked the question about taking part in demonstrations, Mayer said, she replied that there were peace marches in Bloomington, that she blew her horn whenever she saw a “Honk for Peace” sign, and that people should seek peaceful solutions before going to war.

A student complained to her father, who complained to the principal, who canceled the school’s annual “Peace Month” observance and told Mayer never to discuss the war or her political views in class.

Mayer, who had been hired after the semester started and had received a good job evaluation before the incident, was dismissed at the end of the school year. The school said it was for poor performance, but the appeals court assumed that she had been fired for her comments and said the school had acted legally.

“Teachers hire out their own speech and must provide the service for which employers are willing to pay,” a three-judge panel of the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Jan. 24. “The Constitution does not entitle teachers to present personal views to captive audiences against the instructions of elected officials.”

Mayer, the court said, was told by her bosses that she could teach about the war “as long as she kept her opinions to herself.” Like the Los Angeles district attorney’s employee whose demotion led to the Supreme Court’s 2006 ruling, the appellate panel said, Mayer had no constitutional right to say anything on the job that conflicted with her employer’s policy.

Mayer’s lawyer asked for a rehearing, saying the evidence was clear that the school had no such policy when Mayer answered the student’s question. The court denied reconsideration in March without comment.

Mayer, who had taught for more than 20 years, couldn’t afford to keep her Indiana home after being fired and left the state. She got another teaching job in Florida, but lost it after disclosing her previous dismissal, and didn’t get another position until last fall.

As all parties to Mayer’s case recognize, her statements would have been constitutionally protected and beyond the government’s power to suppress if she had been speaking on a street corner or at a public hearing.

But in the classroom, as in the workplace, courts have upheld limits on speech. In both settings, past rulings have taken into account the institution’s need to function efficiently and keep order, and the rights of co-workers and students not to be subjected to unwanted diatribes.

In 1969, the Supreme Court upheld a high school student’s right to wear a black armband as a silent protest against the Vietnam War and barred schools from stifling student expression unless it was disruptive or interfered with education. The court retreated from that standard somewhat in a 1988 ruling upholding censorship of student newspapers, and will revisit the issue in a pending case involving an Alaskan student who was suspended for unfurling a banner outside the school grounds that read, “Bong Hits 4 Jesus.”

The Supreme Court has never ruled on teachers’ free speech. In lower courts, teachers have won cases by showing they were punished for violating policies that school officials never explained to them beforehand or invented after the fact. A federal appeals court in 2001 ruled in favor of a fifth-grade teacher in Kentucky who was fired for bringing actor Woody Harrelson to her class to discuss the benefits of industrial hemp, an appearance that school officials had approved.

But teachers who were on notice of school policies they transgressed have usually lost their cases. In one Bay Area case, in August 2005, a federal judge in San Jose rejected arguments by Cupertino elementary school teacher Stephen Williams that his principal had violated his freedom of speech by prohibiting him from using outside religious materials in history lessons.

Unless the Supreme Court takes up Mayer’s case, its legal effect is limited to federal courts in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin, the three states in the Seventh Circuit. But Amar, the Hastings law professor, and others said the ruling could be influential elsewhere because there are few appellate decisions on the issue, and because the author, Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook, is a prominent conservative jurist.

“Very few schools are going to be that harsh in muzzling or silencing their teachers,” but the ruling indicates they would be free to do so, Amar said.

Simpson, the National Education Association’s lawyer, said the ruling, though within the legal mainstream, was bad for education because teachers are not “hired to read a script.” The case might interest the Supreme Court, and the NEA will probably file a brief in support of Mayer’s appeal should the justices take the case, he said.

Beverly Tucker, chief counsel of the NEA-affiliated California Teachers Association, said she doubts that federal courts in California would take as conservative a position as the court in Mayer’s case. But she expects school districts to cite the ruling in the next case that arises.

“If I were a public school teacher, I would live in fear that some innocuous remark made in the classroom in response to a question from a pupil would lead to me being terminated” under such a ruling, Tucker said.

As for Mayer, she isn’t sure what rankles her most — the impact on her life, the stigma of being branded a rogue teacher, or the court’s assertion that a teacher’s speech is a commodity purchased by the government.

“My free speech,” she said, “is not for sale at any price.”

E-mail Bob Egelko at begelko@sfchronicle.com

© 2007 Hearst Communications Inc.


Polictical messages on license plates might get you in trouble……

There is an item on Common Dreams about the DMV in South Dakota attempting to revoke a woman’s license plate because of the plates political messageMPEACHW  She had the plates made to match her husband’s which had IMPCH W

On April 18, Heather Morijah got a letter from the South Dakota DMV.

The agency “is in receipt of a written complaint about your personalized plates,” the letter says. “With this complaint I am sorry to inform you that the set of plates MPEACHW are being recalled. . . . You will have 10 days from the date of receiving this letter to surrender the plates.”

When Morijahn called the DMV and asked for a copy of the complaint (with the person’s name blacked out, a list of all the vanity plates they’d issued in the last year, and  a list of the vanity plates they had recalled, she was denied the request.

When a reporter contact the DMV, the response was:

“I’m following the letter of the law,” DMV director Deb Hillmer told Woster. “It’s offensive to someone and not in good taste and decency. And the plates are the property of the state of South Dakota.”

Thanks to the ACLU, the DMV changed their tune.

The ACLU’s Ring then faxed over a letter on May 4 to Paul Kinsman, secretary of Revenue and Regulation, which oversees the DMV.

“Her opinion may not be shared by everyone in the United States or in South Dakota,” Ring wrote. “Regardless, her political comments and criticism are protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and the Article 4, Section 5, of the South Dakota Constitution, and the state is not permitted to censor that protected speech.”

Ring pointed out that “political speech such as ‘impeach George Bush’ is indisputably not ‘indecent’ or ‘vulgar’ in any respect. It may offend some citizens of South Dakota, but that is not a valid basis for the State to censor pure political speech.”

On May 7, the DMV pulled a U-turn.

Heather Morijah states:

“We both feel very strongly about this administration for a large number of reasons. The big number one would be leading us into an imperialistic occupation in Iraq to get their oil, and lying to the American people at the expense of many American lives and many Iraqi lives. And number two, the horrifying damage they’re inflicting on the environment in this country and in the world. This particular issue has been resolved,” she says. “But I hope the momentum this has created continues. And not just on the free speech issue, but also on going forward with removing this incredibly harmful administration.”

Challenge to our Free Expression Event

Yesterday I posted a description of the Empty Shoes of War event that I helped organize.

The event was continually challenged throughout the day (probably due to the graphic nature of the content) – not by the public, mind you……by the personnel inside the public library attached to the public plaza. I have written a letter of complaint to Salt Lake City. It explains everything that happened throughout the day (with copies sent to the library directors and to the ACLU):

The Desert Green Party of Utah applied for a permit on Tuesday, January 2, 2007 for an event titled “Empty Shoes of War” to be held on Saturday, January 27, 2007 between the hours of 9-5 on the library plaza.  The permit, #FS07-002, was approved by the Salt Lake City Corporation Special Events Department.

The hours of the event were adjusted to 10am to 2pm because of the cold temperatures.  Members of the Desert Green Party of Utah set up the display at 9:30am and tore down at 2:00pm.  The nature of the event was to display children’s shoes and photos of injured, sickened and dead Iraqi children to educate the general public on the effects of war on civilians.  The reaction to us from everyone that stopped was highly positive.

The Desert Green Party of Utah complied with all requirements per the permit, inclusive of item #5, to wit:

“You must position your activity and participants in such a way that pedestrians have safe passage and access to the sidewalks, Library and business entrances on Library Square.  You may not block or attempt to block any entrance or driveway.”

As part of the application process, we completed a diagram, which was approved by your department, outlining where our display would be located.  This diagram is attached.  I have also included photos of the actual display that day to prove that we adhered to the requirements of the permit approved by your department.  At no time was there ever a blockage of the doorway, in fact it was quite the opposite.  There are multiple witnesses who can attest to this. Additionally, at no time did we receive any complaints from the general public.

During the day on January 27, 2007, the Desert Green Party members were continually confronted by library personnel about moving the display.  Below is outlined the sequence of these confrontations, with times being approximate, except the last bulleted item which is exact.

1.        10:00am:  Two library workers came out to ask us to move our display “back” and to make sure we didn’t block the door.  We pointed out that we were complying with the permit we had been issued.  We did move the display back about a foot, more towards the fountain.

2.      11:00am:  Library maintenance employee confronted Desert Green Party members requesting the display be moved 25 feet from the door, quoting that request as “it’s the rule of the library.”   When we questioned him on this, he then stated the following (This is paraphrased and not a direct quote):

“Children walk by here every day.   Some children might be traumatized by this.”  When asked if he then was requesting that we move our display due to the content, he quickly corrected himself by saying “It’s the library rule.”

Upon reviewing our permit, we could not find any regulation to the 25 foot rule, nor could we find anything drawing a line between “library property” and “city property,” except the doors to the library building.   When we asked if the library director could come talk to us, the employee said “he is not here today, it’s the weekend.”   We then asked him to produce the document highlighting the library rule that stated we had to be 25 feet away from the door.  He said he would produce it.

3.        11:30am:  The same library maintenance employee came to the Desert Green Party members with a document in his hand that he showed to us and admittedly stated that the only “rule” referring to being 25 feet away from the door was with regards to smoking.  No such written rule was ever produced to us during the day.  When asked if there had been any complaints, this employee said “none at all.”

He then made it a point to tell us that if we had “any problems.” to make sure to call security.

4.        11:45am:  A library security officer came out to the Desert Green Party display and gave us his phone number and told us that if was had “any trouble,” to be sure to call him.

5.        1:15pm:  It was observed that a library worker came to the doors and remained inside while she surveyed the activity outside.  There were few people outside and there was no one at the doors.

6.        1:30pm:  The same library security officer came to the Desert Green Party display to make sure we were “alright.”

(NOTE:  We found it odd that we were continually being checked up on for our safety because at no time during the event did we ever have any indication of hostility or anger on the part of passersby, in fact, quite the opposite.)

7.        1:45pm (exact time):  Two women workers from the library approached the Desert Green Party Members running the event.  One woman identified herself as the Library Director.  She was very agitated and while communicating to us that she “remained neutral” on our event, we had to move our display to the opposite side of where we were currently located.  We challenged this, again, stating that our permit allowed us to be here.  She proceeded to tell us that the “library property” was from the south edge of the outside elevator (note elevator is located on library plaza and comes up from the parking deck below the library) proceeding westward and that we had to move our display on the south side of that imaginary boundary line (note that this was in contradiction to the first request of moving our display to the opposite side of where we were located which was in front of the elevator, causing confusion in exactly what was being asked of us and what the Library Director was telling us was “the rule”).

When asked if there had been complaints, the Library Director said “yes.”  When asked what the nature of the complaints were she said that our event was “being perceived as a library sponsored event.”  When asked why the library issued a permit to the group sponsoring an event inside the library, which was explicitly anti-war, she responded that the group had reserved the room, and that they were presenting all points of view.  This is not true, and again, represents a judgment based on the content of the event, not the neutrality of the library. We replied that this is not our issue but, rather, an issue between the library and the Special Events Department and that we were complying with all the requirements of the permit we had been issued.

We told the Library Director that we were tearing down our display at 2:00 (15 minutes from the time she approached us).  The Director said “That isn’t good enough – you have to move now.”  We told her we would not to which she responded, “I will move it myself.”  She proceeded to move towards the display with the intent of touching the items, but stopped at our emphatic “NO”.  We then moved the confrontation to the news camera where the rest of the disagreement was recorded, ending with the Director telling us she would be contacting the city and then us with the results of her complaint.

     It is important to note that at the same time as our event, there was an anti-war activity being held inside with a crowd of people in the Urban Room, less than 25 feet from the library doors, crowding around literature tables waiting to go into the auditorium for a panel discussion.  When we brought this to the attention of the library director, she said that they had signed up for the room per the library rules.  Yet just prior to this she had told us that “of course no antiwar event could sign up to use the Urban Room.” There was a crowd of about 50 people blocking the walkway in the Urban room on the inside of the south doors to the library!

It was also observed that the organizers of the inside event, while their event was scheduled for 2:00pm, showed up at 9:30am., placed all of their materials on tables inside the Urban Room and sat there until it was time for their event.  To our knowledge, if they had not signed up to be at that location at that time, they were never challenged on their presence there.

Due to the sequence of events and the nature of the confrontations throughout the day, we feel almost certain that we were being challenged and discriminated against due to the nature of our event.  We were complying with all regulations of Salt Lake City, per the permit that is issued to us and were not making any violations of the permit.

     I would also like to point out that as a participant with tabling organizations at events such as PRIDE, displays and booths have been situated in such a way that there is less than 25 feet space between booths and the doors.

                We therefore request that if a complaint comes from Salt Lake City Library personnel, that our organization, Desert Green Party of Utah, not be penalized since we were within the purview of the Free Speech Permit issued to us for this event.  If there are inconsistencies in policies of the library and Salt Lake City Corporation, we view this as an issue that needs to be addressed between the respective agencies and not be taken as an action of civil disobedience on the part of our organization.

   Thank you for your time in reviewing this communication and we hope that we can continue to obtain free speech permits for our non-violent peaceful assemblies and events.


Deanna L. Taylor
Desert Green Party of Utah


Nancy Tessman, Director (postal mail)

Salt Lake City Library

 Chip Ward, Assistant Director, wardchip@hotmail.com
Salt Lake City Library

 American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
Representative unknown at this time – faxed to general number

Eileen McCabe, Member
Desert Green Party of Utah

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Air America Advertisers Being Told to Withdraw Commercials

ABC memo reveals Air America advertiser blacklist

An internal ABC Radio Networks memo obtained by Media Matters for America, originally from a listener to The Peter B. Collins Show, indicates that nearly 100 ABC advertisers insist that their commercials be blacked out on Air America Radio affiliates. According to the memo, the advertisers insist that “NONE of their commercials air during AIR AMERICA programming.” Among the advertisers listed are Bank of America, Exxon Mobil, Federal Express, General Electric, McDonald’s, Microsoft, Wal-Mart, and the U.S. Navy.

I love the daily graphics on Project for an Old American Century. Here is today’s: