Monday, October 25, 2010

The French, the British, and Public Contention

Here is an interesting piece from the N.Y. Times comparing the response of French and British citizens to austerity measures in those countries.  Not surprisingly, the French have taken to the streets more regularly and in greater numbers than the British.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Certiorari Denial in 2005 Bumper Sticker Ejection Case

Over three dissents, the Supreme Court has denied cert. in a case involving the ejection of two people from a 2005 public event featuring George W. Bush.  The ejection was apparently based solely on the subject matter of the bumper sticker on their car.  The N.Y. Times has the story.  The central legal issue in the case is whether the officials who ejected the two are entitled to qualified immunity on the ground that no "clearly established" principle of First Amendment law was violated.   

Monday, October 4, 2010

Viewpoint-Based Exclusion from Non-Exclusive Event

Eugene Volokh has this interesting post on a case involving the exclusion of certain students from a non-exclusive Maria Cantwell event on the campus of Bellevue University.  The basic principle is that once the university opened a non-exclusive forum for speech, it could not then exclude certain students based upon their anti-Cantwell viewpoint.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The First National Pilgrimage to D.C.

The Sunday New York Times has a brief but interesting piece on the first national march on Washington, in 1894.  The article notes that the protesters were arrested for stepping on the Capitol grass -- a charge the author notes would be "preposterous" today.  Maybe not.  Concerns about aesthtics have led to proposals to limit protests on the Mall as well as actual limits in places like Central Park.  To be sure, protests are still allowed in such places.  But in some cases courts and officials have preferenced blades of grass over actual protesters.  The piece notes how little has actually changed over time with respect to national pilgrimages to D.C. 

Here is an excerpt:

Marching in 2010 and marching in 1894 are, of course, two different experiences.

On May 1, 1894, Coxey and somewhere between 500 and 1,000 marchers rambled along Pennsylvania Avenue toward the Capitol. Thousands lined the streets to watch. These days, the only people who watch for any length of time are reporters and cops.

And yet, Coxey’s march foreshadowed many of the same logistical and tactical issues that today’s protest organizers face. Even Coxey’s message points to those of modern marches. One of the platforms of the rally in Washington on Saturday, which was sponsored by liberal groups, called for increased infrastructure spending to create jobs.

Newspapers covered virtually every step of Coxey’s journey from Ohio to Washington. Mr. Coxey and his aides stressed their Christian roots, while reporters described them as tramps and cranks. Politicians and the press seemed to have one primary concern: How many will march? Organizers today continue to be frustrated that their larger message gets lost amid the focus on crowd size, and Coxey was perhaps the first march leader to use a wildly optimistic number — he predicted 10,000 to 500,000 demonstrators — to generate publicity.

Liberal Groups Rally on the National Mall

Story here.  There have been proposals for more monuments and for confining protests on the Mall to some sort of protest zone.  I think the recent gatherings on the Mall demonstrate the wisdom of keeping the Mall open to large-scale political and other demonstrations.  The assemblies may not change minds, policies or electoral results.  But they offer an opportunity for people to assemble in solidarity for large causes and to express hope, frustration, faith, and preferences.