Now I'm steppin into the free speech zone...
September 21, 2003 3:06 PM   Subscribe

Free speech zones Appearing everywhere from Florida to Oregon. In California the concept has been fought and defeated, but in Kansas there seems to be little resistance. It's not just the usual suspects, either. Watch where you are standing no matter who you are protesting, even if it's just governors.
posted by betaray (31 comments total)
free speech zone - analogous to a 'no fear' zone, in which you are encased in a reinforced concrete bunker 1000 feet below the surface. nothing to fear, right? free speech zones are a precursor to the concrete and steel 'free speech correctional centers' of the near future.
posted by quonsar at 3:39 PM on September 21, 2003

"The problem was, the restricted area kept moving," Bursey said. "It was wherever I happened to be standing." He faces a possible six-month prison sentence prison [sic] if convicted.

Woah. That's not even funny.

Shrub and his secret service people can actually allocate "zones" of free speech? Has this been going on for awhile? Why am I always the last one to know about these things? Oh yeah, I'm in the "deaf dumb and impotent voter zone" I forgot.

Don't they realize how blatantly... Ugh. Did someone like, redefine the word "FREE" when I wasn't looking? This right here is why that damn caged bird sings. One can speak freely, just not where the people who need to hear it can listen. Cuz they don't wanna listen. If you wanna be heard you gotta say only what they wanna hear. Then they'll let you out of the free speech zone and into the controlled speech zone. How beautifully Orwellian.

How come we can impeach a democrat for wetting his wick - something not even mentioned in the constitution, but we can't impeach a republican for taking the constitution and wiping his own ass with it?
posted by ZachsMind at 3:50 PM on September 21, 2003

cuz liberal is baaad. don't you listen to the radio?
posted by quonsar at 3:52 PM on September 21, 2003

adjective, adverb
not limited or controlled:

noun [C]
1 an area, especially one which is different from the areas around it because it has different characteristics or is used for different purposes.
Cambridge International Dictionary of English.

Looks a bit like Americans are losing their sense of critical analysis. Shouldn't an oxymoron like this raise a big red flag? It's no wonder the establishment won't put decent funding towards schools after they figured out they could foist this sort of hoohaw on us if they don't.
posted by a_green_man at 3:56 PM on September 21, 2003

In the first link, I love that the ruling preventing local SC law enforcement from arresting the guy (as apparently is the norm elsewhere) was for same the guy, 34 years ago.
posted by claxton6 at 4:26 PM on September 21, 2003

First of all, this is one of the most important links . Gore had a free speech zone before Bush was ever elected. As for when did this stat? That's really one thing my research hasn't uncovered, and something I'm interested in knowing.

This isn't partisan. The last paragraph of the Columbia ungrounded new paper article put it's perfectly. What kind of democracy do we ultimately want? Is it one where one privileged individual can legally impinge on the rights of the many? Where a leader is afraid of his own people? The leader in this case being then Vice President Gore.

I want to encourage people to get the word out, but pleeease, don't make this a left vs. right issue because it's not.

Zach, your not alone, hardly anyone has heard of this, and even fewer know of the scope on which it's occurring. I started this research because I read an off-hand comment about "free speech zones" in a news article, and went Googling.

The lack of coverage by the mainstream media has me worried about this situation. It's going to be intresting to see what role these "free speech zones" play in the upcoming primary season.
posted by betaray at 4:28 PM on September 21, 2003

The only problem with free speech zones is that they're indicative that anywhere outside of them are NOT open to free speech.

Actually, come to think of it, in Ashcroft's America that's the idea.
posted by clevershark at 4:29 PM on September 21, 2003

I can't tell what's real and what's satire anymore.
posted by homunculus at 4:35 PM on September 21, 2003

Here's a letter to Ashcroft from Barney Frank and some other Representatives about Bursey. I like this part:

“As we read the First Amendment to the Constitution, the United States is a ‘free speech zone’. In the United States, free speech is the rule, not the exception, and citizens’ rights to express it do not depend on their doing it in a way the President finds politically amenable . . . . We ask that you make it clear that we have no interest as a government in “zoning” Constitutional freedoms, and that being politically annoying to the President of the United States is not a criminal offense. This prosecution smacks of the use of the Sedition Acts two hundred years ago to protect the President from political discomfort. It was wrong then and it is wrong now. We urge you to drop this prosecution based so clearly on the political views being expressed by the individual who is being prosecuted.”
posted by homunculus at 4:42 PM on September 21, 2003

I know it's very shallow of me, but: WOW! There's a lawyer called Tom Turnipseed?!?
posted by kaemaril at 4:50 PM on September 21, 2003

Maybe presidents and politicians should have to pass an exam on the constitution before they're allowed into office.

In addition to holding them permanently under oath, on penalty of perjury, for the entirety of their office, of course. [I so love that idea - I mean, how could they object?]
posted by Blue Stone at 5:29 PM on September 21, 2003

'tis true, that this is actually not the shrub's invention. for evidence, let us hearken back to an egregious self-link from my days as a mefi urchin yearning to set his feet upon the public square with an intensity which can only be sparked be being told one may not set foot in the public square.
posted by quonsar at 5:31 PM on September 21, 2003

Now if they were doing it simply for security, ALL crowds would be required to keep back in a zone. That might be somewhat acceptable. But simple crowd control is not what's going on here - supporters can get close and protesters are tucked away so they don't spoil news clips and campaign footage - that's discriminatory and that's bullshit.

Not too long ago the Supremes supported the right to public protest at family planning clinics even when it is disruptive. If local ordinances and authorities can't overrule this right in these controversial protest cases cases, how can they be allowed to abridge the rights of peace protesters?
posted by madamjujujive at 6:13 PM on September 21, 2003

i'm building me a protest sign that switches sides at the touch of a tiny microswitch embedded in the handle.
posted by quonsar at 6:18 PM on September 21, 2003

Yeah, this isn't new. There was something similar here in Seattle during the WTO protests. For a week or so, if you were in the downtown business district, you weren't allowed to express anti-WTO views, or congregate in groups of more than 2, etc. (Even if you were just trying to get to your job. This obvious BS ended up drawing a lot of people into the protests who were previously apolitical.)

What does seem to be new is the way that "free speech zones" are becoming the normal state of affairs in more and more situations, instead of just being imposed occasionally.
posted by hattifattener at 11:03 PM on September 21, 2003

This kind of reminds me of the book Animal Farm: we all have "freedom of speech," but some have more freedom than others.

Why do I think that Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, et al, were they alive today, would be bitch-slapping elected and appointed officials left and right?
posted by wdpeck at 1:16 AM on September 22, 2003

Hattifattener spake: or congregate in groups of more than 2

You'd think that GWB and Ashcroft would realize this would inerfere with the whole Christian "where two or more gather together in my name, I will be there in the midst" thing.

[P.S.: I'm both a Christian minister and a Libertarian, so this is not a shot at Christianity, but rather at those who want to cram it down the throats of everyone in the name of a functionally-equivalent theocracy.]
posted by wdpeck at 1:23 AM on September 22, 2003

18 USC § 1752.
posted by dhartung at 1:23 AM on September 22, 2003

"Why do I think that Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, et al, were they alive today, would be bitch-slapping elected and appointed officials left and right?"

If they where alive today they'd be in jail.

Or clawing like mad at the insides of their coffins.
posted by spazzm at 1:45 AM on September 22, 2003

dhartung: So, exactly which part of 18 USC § 1752 applies to any of these cases, and why were only dissenting sign carriers in violation? And if you believe that the USC gives the secret service the power to behave this way, would you also clarify for me by what legal mechanism the USC trumps the 1st and 14th amendments to the constitution? I'd be most grateful.
posted by betaray at 4:59 AM on September 22, 2003

What a great reason to become a card carrying member of the ACLU!

And if that isn't enough then consider the Patriot Act and Patriot Act II.
Join today and beat the rush. Be generous with your donations and make John Ashcroft cry.
posted by nofundy at 5:10 AM on September 22, 2003

Why do I think that Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, et al, were they alive today, would be bitch-slapping elected and appointed officials left and right?

[timecube] Because you ARE EDUCATED STUPID! [/timecube] Or at least inculturated into a too-rosy view of them.

Adams presided over the Alien and Sedition Acts and had Jeffersonian-Republicans, mostly journalists, chucked in jail for printing stuff he didn't like (that was sympathetic to the revolutionaries in France, IIRC).
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:13 AM on September 22, 2003

dhartung: Yes, of course, because we all know that the law is always just, fair, and correct, and therefore civil disobedience is never warranted.


posted by Cerebus at 8:06 AM on September 22, 2003

ROU_Xenophobe spake: [timecube] Because you ARE EDUCATED STUPID! [/timecube] Or at least inculturated into a too-rosy view of them.

Oh, no -- I fully realize that many of them, by our standards, were bastards. (Hell, by their own standards some of them were bastards.) Yet, they did fight a war and write a constitution to guarantee that stupid stuff such as "free speech zones" could "never happen" here.

My point being (as someone else more clearly stated, IIRC) that perhaps candidates for elected or appointed office (i.e., federal court judges and justices) should be required to pass an exam on con law, or at least be held to a stricter standard of actually abiding by and enforcing the constitution.
posted by wdpeck at 8:48 AM on September 22, 2003

They should top calling them "amendments." That makes people like Bush and Ashcroft who have never read the document think they're like footnotes. They ought to call them "Freedom Bursts" or "Patriotic Mandates" or something that sounds more stupid/ominous.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 9:09 AM on September 22, 2003

This is another example of how something that ought to be obviously unconstitutional instead gets redefined as an exception. The American people is like the proverbial frog in the saucepan filled with water. The temperature keeps getting turned up, and eventually we're going to be boiled alive without ever realizing that it's happening.

And the commenter above that noted that Gore did this was right: it's reprehensible and ought to be obviously wrong, regardless of which elected official is exploiting this anti-dissent law.
posted by norm at 9:41 AM on September 22, 2003

In the mid-90s, a number of Midwest communities started using fenced in protest areas during Klan rallies. This was mainly done to lessen the likelihood on confrontation: the supporters and protesters would each have a separate cage and thus less fights would break out. Additionally, since police would spend time checking everyone going into the pen for weapons, etc. (sometimes you couldn't even bring in keys or flyers), protesters would often find that they had to wait around for awhile in order to gather together and be close to the action. For police, this was a way of dampening the energy of the protests. Oftentimes though there'd be many people who were unwilling to go into the protest pits. I know of at least a few lawsuits that were filed about the whole free speech zone matter, but I think they were dismissed.

One of the funniest protest moments was during a winter rally when fenced-in protesters hurled snowballs at Klansmen.
posted by gluechunk at 2:56 PM on September 22, 2003

I go to school at Kansas State and looking at the article I'm good friends with one of the people mentioned in it. I'll tell you this though, it's fucking hell getting a table in the free speech zone.

A little history. A few years ago the area between the student union and the engineering building was a short road divided by a median and blocked off to traffic most of the time. About 3-4 years ago this changed and they spent an assload of student money putting in a very food court-esque plaza. Much nicer really though. Anyhow the main use of this seems to be space for credit card companies, a few campus groups will put stuff out there, and occasionally stuff will go on, but usually it's just something you walk through. The name's always been there as far as I can tell.

About 2 years ago I was the activites coordinator of a campus group trying to get a table out there for our annual Friday the 13th anti-superstition event. Pain in the ass. The union booking office told me I had to talk to grounds, ground told me I needed to get a form filled out, pay a deposit, pay more if I wanted to rent a table (and couldn't bring my own) and get it signed by our group's advisor. Took all day.

I've known people who spoke there without getting permits of any sort and getting hassled. Then again, this is largely a campus where people don't give a fuck about anything. Still, it's a nice big, fat, joke.

As for the walk-out itself? Not too many people went, most of us just went to class and teachers would have gotten on your ass if you tried to skip. The "Coalition for Peace" is a joint venture between the insane feminist group, the miniscule green party group, the campaign for non-violence that I don't know, and I think the Socialists were involved, but I know the guys who founded it and probably all 5 of the members.

Ultimately though, it's just a pain in the ass hassle rather than any concerted effort to suppress speech. The school just wants to get their cut. Doesn't matter as most of the students never have anything to say.
posted by Belgand at 1:56 AM on September 26, 2003

Almost forgot. Kansas State also happens to be about 15 min. or so from Ft. Riley, the home of the 1st Infantry division. This probably affected things by a fair amount.
posted by Belgand at 1:58 AM on September 26, 2003

Oh and well, I also forgot the most important point. It's just a name. You can put up a table and say whatever you want, but the only large open area is the "Free Speech Zone", even if it isn't in a convenient location you do get a lot of traffic through it depending on students and schedules, mainly off-campus students though.
posted by Belgand at 2:00 AM on September 26, 2003

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