Thursday, March 17, 2016

Embedded Thuggery


When Does Heckling Become Harassment?

Last week’s protests and mini-riot that prompted Donald Trump to cancel a rally in Chicago were the latest example of a concerted effort to disrupt candidates’ campaigns.

Professor Eugene Volokh wrote...

Many states outlaw “disturbing lawful assemblies,” which would include campaign rallies, whether on public property or private.

Attempts to shut down an event, for instance by shouting down a speaker, blowing whistles so that the speaker can’t be heard, rushing onto the stage and the like would thus be illegal. This is important both because the police can then arrest the disrupters, and because security guards and ordinary rally attendees could then legally use reasonable, non-deadly force to stop the disruption (more on that later).
As Trump edges closer to locking up the Republican nomination, such agitation will likely grow more frequent and more extreme. The questions, then, are what limits hecklers from interrupting campaign events, and does enforcing those limitations work.

Legal Restraints on Hecklers

Two preliminary matters, though.

First, although there is some First Amendment protection for “speech” in the form of physical action, it is inapplicable for this conversation.  Storming the stage is not protected speech; it is likely assault.  If a protester crosses the line and lays hands on a candidate or somebody attending an event, that would be battery, at a minimum.

Second, the First Amendment does not grant an absolute right to speak or protest.  There are a variety of limitations depending on the context.  It is ironclad law that reasonable “time, place and manner” limitations on speech are permitted under the Constitution.

In my personal view, the time, place and manner exception is beginning to eat up the free speech rule, in part because I believe there is a legitimate and necessary place for spontaneous and/or unusual forms of protest that do not and cannot comply with time/place/manner bureaucracy.  In any event, Constitutional limitations on speech exist.


For the campaign, having the police clear protesters signals weakness and can rally support behind the protesters. The rally was doomed regardless, and escaping with minimal consequences was a positive result.

The problem, of course, is that Trump didn’t get to speak, and the audience didn’t get to hear him. This is known as the “Heckler’s Veto.”  Protesters are so unruly and the situation so out of control that event organizers or police deem it too dangerous to proceed and shut it down.  The protesters thereby obtain a de facto veto over speech they dislike.

This is a practical rule, not a legal rule.  In fact, the law require police to provide speakers at least some amount of protection against a violent crowd before the speaker can legally be silenced for his or her own benefit. {FULL}



Law enforcement threats, intimidation likened to 'police-state tactics,' by Missouri governor

Obama's thug style campaign tactics 

So there’s your Obama Chicago thug style campaign … targeting the personal lives and businesses of donors.  Gangster president, gangster politics.

ad nauseum ....


Stu Tarlowe said...

Simple. If the Left does it, it's free speech. If the Right does it, it's "bullying" and cannot be tolerated.

Rodger the Real King of France said...

ipso facto

However, in Trump we have someone who will not only threaten to pursue criminal prosecution against these thugs, but has the resources and balls to follow through.

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