Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Local columnist threatens lawyers!

That would be Katie, of course, in a veiled threat to local lawyers who have sued to get better access for protesters at the Republican National Convention:

In 2008, it's sadly inevitable that crazies will try to turn St. Paul streets into a war zone.

But we don't have to facilitate such intimidation. After the crazies move on, the establishment types who gave them comfort and cover -- and sued to win a march route that apparently facilitates their plans -- had better be prepared to take responsibility for what happens if they get their way.

Lucca Brassi sleeps with the fishes!

You gotta nice little law practice here. It would be a shame if something happened to it.

What are you going to do, Katie? Publish the names of the lawyers like they were abortion doctors? Or do like the right wing bloggers do and publish the addresses of people who expressed an opinion contrary to their own views?

Well, Spot, she did that, actually.

Yes, grasshopper, Spot knows. Katie is a thug. She has a newspaper gig, and therefore thinks her conduct is some how different, but it's not. She's still a thug.

The column was about the efforts of some Minnesota lawyers to secure better access to the Excel Center area for protest parades during the Republican National Convention. Katie is worried about the effect on decent people, meaning delegates to the convention, of having to put up with protesters.

Minnesota should have learned a long time ago that we take a dim view of attempts at prior restraint of the exercise of First Amendment rights. The seminal case in the prior restraint area is Near v.Minnesota, a 1931 United States Supreme Court case. Here's the briefest summary of the facts:

In 1927, Jay M. Near, who has been described as "anti-Catholic, anti-Semitic, anti-black and anti-labor"[2] began publishing The Saturday Press in Minneapolis with Howard A. Guilford, a former mayoral candidate who had been convicted of criminal libel.

The paper claimed that Jewish gangs were "practically ruling" the city along with the police chief, Frank W. Brunskill, who was accused of participation in graft. Among the paper's other targets were mayor George E. Leach, Hennepin County attorney and future three-term governor Floyd B. Olson, and the members of the grand jury of Hennepin County, who the paper claimed were either incompetent or willfully failing to investigate and prosecute known criminal activity.

Floyd Olson took a dim view of all of this, and tried to shut the paper down as a nuisance under what was know as the Minnesota Gag Law. The Supreme Court of the United States reversed a Minnesota Supreme Court decision upholding a conviction under the law. The U.S. Supreme Court held that prior restraint, or censorship, except in very limited circumstances, was unconstitutional.

Without spending a lot more of your time, boys and girls, Spot will just say that any prior restraint of press, speech, assembly and petition rights must be strictly limited to public safety concerns, and it is no justification to say that some people might create a ruckus. That is essentially what one of the lawyers trying to secure better access for protest said:

Todd Noteboom of Leonard, Street and Deinard says St. Paul has provided no evidence that radical groups' threats are serious or involve significant numbers. "The possibility that a small number of people might try to block a roadway or impede access to a bridge does not justify stripping 100,000 people of their First Amendment rights," he said on Tuesday.

If anybody gets out of line, disturbs the peace or destroys property at the convention, there will be police there to arrest them and charges of law violations to be brought. And that's as it should be.

To somehow believe it is appropriate to restrain the speech in the name of order or convenience to the delegates, ahead of time, however, is a serious misreading or misunderstanding of the First Amendment.

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