Shouting down a speaker violates the speaker's first amendment rights.
After the Muslim students at UC Irvine were convicted of conspiring to disrupt a speech by an Israeli ambassador, I've come to the conclusion that disrupting others' speech violates their 1st amendment rights and therefore cannot reasonably be protected free speech. Now while I normally support the American Civil Liberties Union I am disappointed that its Southern California chapter executive director : "If allowed to stand, this will undoubtedly intimidate students in Orange County and across the state and discourage them from engaging in any controversial speech or protest for fear of criminal charges." C'mon, that is just plain ridiculous. As I've said in the original DU thread linked, the sensible alternative to shouting down Michael Oren would have been to engage in controversial speech in another venue, as ACLUSC exec dir Hector Villagra said.
Is it not a crime to deprive another person of civil rights? That's the criminal conviction that two of the police officers who beat Rodney King got in federal court. Think about this: if a right-wing astroturf group paid a group of people to attend a Barack Obama speech and shout Obama down with right-wing talking points, would you defend the people's actions, and would that be criminal?
1. That's implying one's speech is more important.
Edited on Tue Sep-27-11 01:21 AM by Tunkamerica
Is the person with the microphone more entitled to speak than the person in the audience? Yeah, "shouting someone down" (or speaking loudly at the same time) is rude and largely ineffective, but to deny the dissenter a right to speak is just as bad.
To your question: not criminal but rude and ineffective.
15. Perhaps we're all interpreting things differently, but the OP specifically says
"shouting down". I take that to mean actions that are designed to make speech impossible - that obliterate the intended speaker's right to be heard. That deserves very little 1A protection or deference IMO, and there's no can of worms being opened by that position. Protests, t-shirts, etc, aren't even in the same ballpark. IOW, there is a significant and important distinction between speech and denial of speech, and courts are able to make that distinction (as the CA Supreme Court did in 1970 when it addressed the law used in Irvine).
As an aside, I think the prosecution in Irvine was highly inappropriate, but not on any 1A grounds. Rather, I think it was a selective prosecution based on viewpoint, and I don't think that what the students did rose to the level of what the SC counted as a true disruption under the law in question...
17. That's true - but I said "specific venue" in my first post
If a university conference room has been set aside for a speech or an event, then you have no right to drag your soapbox in there, or mount your giant amplifiers to the windowsill, or take other actions intended to annihilate the speech. That could apply outdoors as well, although not in the example you produce.
In other words, there are plenty of situations where one person's speech rights may cause interference with another, but there are other circumstances where that interference may legitimately be disallowed without invoking 1A.
(The CA law in question is PC 403, and the CA SC case that looked at it was in re Kay, 1970).
19. What is determinant would be the 'specific venue'..
If it's a public space, it doesn't matter if it's set aside for a specific event. CA is only one of a couple of spaces that specify that some private property is also a public space- namely shopping malls.
Use of bullhorns or PA systems isn't at issue in this case, though, so that's a bit of a red herring.
20. My classroom is in a public building, and it's our campus policy that visitors
are free to come in and observe as long as I leave the door open. Would you argue that any of those visitors has an unfettered 1A right to give a speech during my presentation?
While I agree with you that free speech rights deserve a very high degree of deference and protection, they are not absolute and unlimited - not even in public space. Laws preventing the disruption of others speech are valid and Constitutionally appropriate (the cartoonish notion that your right to swing your hand ends at the tip of my nose comes into play here)...
Nobody is claiming that the right to free speech is unlimited. But a law against 'disruption of speech' -- with other speech -- is a dangerous tool to place into the hands of some future government. It's placing a higher value on the person who speaks first.
28. Simply put, that is not universally true. Publicly-owned property or not,
there is no absolute 1A right to eradicate another person's right to speak under any and all circumstances. You and a few others are taking far too binary of a perspective on this.
You cannot generalize from the soapbox in the park where anyone can speak if they choose, or a political rally where heckling and comment is the norm, to a classroom or auditorium on a campus, the council chamber at city hall, or a bunch of other specific venues and contexts where the original speaker is in fact and in law entitled to privilege and protection...
4. That's not speech. It's attempting to prevent speech.
If the protesters want to be heard, they can walk outside, or find any other spot in the world to exercise their right to speech.
People forget that "free speech" doesn't mean "guaranteed right to be heard." You can't go out and climb on stage at an awards show and demand your free speech, or go to a local TV station and say they have to give you a live broadcast. You have the right to speak; others have the right to kick you out if you're being disruptive.
10. you might want to see US Code Title 18 Section 241
"This statute makes it unlawful for two or more persons to conspire to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any person of any state, territory or district in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him/her by the Constitution or the laws of the United States, (or because of his/her having exercised the same)."
Be glad that the US Attorney in Southern California didn't go after the student protesters with THIS statute. I firmly stand by my belief that the protesters deprived Oren of his constitutionally protected free speech rights.
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