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Category Archives: First Amendment

Opinion: 1st Amendment rights apparently only apply to the left – Juneau Empire

Posted: June 17, 2020 at 1:44 am

Americans were horrified by the senseless killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, by a white Minneapolis police officer. At the same time, Americans were horrified by the indiscriminate looting and vandalism that accompanied the ensuing demonstrations in scores of cities across our nation.

Sadly, the destruction, as well as the violence directed at police forces attempting to maintain order and protect lives and property, were dismissed by many in the media as an unfortunate by-product of frustration and anger of protesters.

To be fair, many peaceful demonstrators, black and white, decried the violence and attempted to prevent more destruction.

There were reports that organized extremists instigated looting and participated in burning down stores, churches, and even a police station.

[In-person and virtual rallies held to condemn racism]

Unable to distinguish between legitimate protesters and criminal vandals and looters, police were put in an impossible situation, and, in some cases, ordered to stand down while lawlessness prevailed, and cities burned.

In our country, peaceful protest is protected. All citizens have a right to be heard. But the message of the protesters was undermined by the violence and mayhem that occurred.

The medias treatment of Black Lives Matter protests, often describing them as mostly peaceful, while labeling nearby rioting mobs as uprisings, was clearly at odds with what America witnessed on their television screens.

Even more stark was the medias selective reversal on COVID-19 mandates. Aided by politicians and talking-heads, organized BLM protests were enthusiastically endorsed throughout the media. In contrast, earlier public positions and protests by business-owners, churches and organizations advocating for opening up the nations devastated economy were roundly condemned.

[Peaceful Juneau vigil held for George Floyd]

Both groups were exercising their First Amendment right to protest unwarranted or unlawful government authority. Yet, the reaction to them by the public, local authorities and the media was often diametrically opposed.

Amid nation-wide coronavirus fears, citizens were publicly shamed for not wearing masks or observing social-distancing guidelines.

After months of complying with hunker-down orders, financially strapped shop owners were arrested or cited for re-opening non-essential businesses. Their crime: allowing employees to go back to work in order to support their families.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio directed the NYPD to arrest violators in large groups.

This is about stopping this disease and saving lives, he said.

Black Lives Matter protests were treated quite differently.

In a nation where funerals, church services and large gatherings were prohibited, the massive demonstrations of people across America were given a pass. Many demonstrators openly ignored health warnings to wear masks or exercise social-distancing.

Hollywood, predictably, joined the chorus of protesters and contributed money for funds to bail lawbreakers out of jail. There were few consequences for criminals the few arrested were released within hours of their arrest.

Two newspaper editors were forced to resign for daring to publish op-eds deploring the destruction or suggesting that federal troops be used to curb violence.

As protests continued, along with public memorial services for George Floyd, it became abundantly clear that

Covid-19 mandates werent meant to be applied to everyone just those not demonstrating for an acceptable cause. Governors and mayors across the country encouraged and joined the BLM protests all the while insisting that other large gatherings remain strictly forbidden for health reasons.

Just weeks before, Alaska shop owners objecting to health mandates were widely criticized for putting the lives of their fellow citizens at risk in the pursuit of profits.

Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz, who joined peaceful protests, also thought lives were at risk, but not in the way you might think. During a recent community radio address, he elevated Black Lives Matter protesters to hero status by saying I see people who are risking their lives to protestin spite of a pandemic.

That comment diminishes the sacrifice of thousands of real heroes in our countrys history who risked and lost their lives defending the constitutional right of all Americans to protest.

The coronavirus doesnt distinguish between conservative and liberal protests. According to some, apparently our First Amendment rights do.

The complex and deep-seated issues facing our country wont be solved by quelling debate and limiting personal freedoms of those expressing opinions with which we disagree.

Win Gruening retired as the senior vice president in charge of business banking for Key Bank in 2012. He was born and raised in Juneau and is active in community affairs as a 30-plus year member of Juneau Downtown Rotary Club and has been involved in various local and statewide organizations. Columns, My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire. Have something to say? Heres how to submit a My Turn or letter.

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Opinion: 1st Amendment rights apparently only apply to the left - Juneau Empire

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If you’re planning to take part in protests, know your rights. Read this. – CNN

Posted: at 1:43 am

There are some measures officials can use to limit protests, and it's easy to accidentally tiptoe into legally murky territory if you don't know the specifics.

So before you go, read up.

Timothy Zick is a professor of Government and Citizenship at the College of William & Mary Law School. He specializes in constitutional law and the First Amendment, and he's written several books about both, including 2009's "Speech Out of Doors: Preserving First Amendment Liberties in Public Spaces."Emerson Sykes is a staff attorney with the ACLU's Speech, Technology and Privacy Project, who studies free speech protections under the First Amendment. Previously, he worked at the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law to protect free speech in Africa.

1. What are my rights as a protester?

The government can't stop you from peacefully protesting, but they can impose some restrictions on the time, place and manner of the protest -- for example, barring protesters from walking onto a public highway or instituting a curfew that affects when protests end, Sykes said.

They can't block a protest simply because of its content, though.

If protests are planned in advance, organizers may obtain a permit so law enforcement can block off public spaces for them to demonstrate, Sykes said.

The First Amendment does not continue to protect protests that escalate to violence or the destruction of private or public property, he said.

That's when law enforcement has the obligation to respond and deescalate threats of violence, he said.

2. Where can and can't I protest?

A slew of public spaces are OK for protests -- sidewalks, city parks, streets and other public forums are usually lawful, Sykes said.

Some states require you file a permit to block off streets, and the right to assembly doesn't give you the automatic right to march on a public highway, Zick said.

People can be arrested or cited for blocking passage, he said.

On private property, you don't have the right to assemble.

Zick called it the "no man's land" in terms of the First Amendment, and police can move you off the property and keep you from demonstrating there.

They may even have that right to move you even if you're on public property. Special rules apply to government buildings because protests may disrupt business going on inside, Sykes said.

If the protest was permitted, you should be allowed to stay where you are -- but leaving the permitted protest site may unintentionally lead you into prohibited places, he said.

3. Can police or local leaders tell us to disperse?

It depends, Sykes said: If a mayor pleads with people to go home, you have no legal obligation to comply.

If you stay on the street past a curfew -- or if you protest on private property -- you may be cited or arrested.

4. What can I record?

Different states have different rules about audio recording and sharing that without the consent of the people whose voices you recorded, but the visual portion of videos and photos are always protected by the First Amendment, Sykes said.

If you're interfering with legitimate police operations, they can ask you to move. It's best to videotape them from a safe distance.

Police can't ask you to give them your phone or forcibly confiscate it without a search warrant, which they would've needed to obtain from a judge, he said.

5. Someone took a picture of my face at a public protest. Is that allowed?

At a public protest in the United States, you consent to a photo just by being there. Anyone who photographs you protesting in a public place may have a right to use your image, and you may see images of yourself in the media or online, Zick said.

6. What should I pack to stay safe at a protest?

Pack light, Sykes said. He suggests you bring water and a snack at minimum. If you bring a bag, prepare for it to be searched.

In a pandemic, wearing a mask can keep you from breathing in droplets containing coronavirus. Coming within close contact of other protesters could expose you to their spit or sneezes, which may carry the coronavirus.

And if you fear you'll be arrested and will need legal help, memorize or write on your arm the number to a local or national law organization that could assist you in getting out of jail and handling your case afterward, Sykes said.

7. What can -- and can't -- police do during a protest?

It's the responsibility of police to protect your right to peaceful assembly.

They're also empowered to uphold law and order, which gives them broad authority to deescalate threats of violence how they see fit.

How they deescalate that violence depends on local laws and the circumstances under which they use them, which can be difficult to prove in court if you believe they used force unlawfully, Zick said.

Like Sykes said, police do not have the right to search your phone or personal devices without a warrant, which only a judge can grant them.

They also don't have permission to delete content from your phone, so if they tell you to delete a video you took or delete it themselves, they're in the wrong, he said.

8. What can I do if a police officer stops me?

Stay calm. Don't resist. Ask them if you're free to go after speaking with them, Sykes said. If they say yes, calmly walk away and rejoin the protest if it's safe to.

If they say no, and they detain you, don't resist and keep calm, Sykes said. Ask them what crime you're suspected of committing.

9. What can I do if I get arrested?

Some people get arrested intentionally as a form of civil disobedience. But whether or not you planned to get handcuffed, you shouldn't resist arrest, Sykes said.

It's the best chance you have to stay safe.

During your arrest, you can remain silent, as is your right, Sykes said.

In some states, police are permitted to know your name if they ask, but they don't have the right to know where you're from or your citizenship status, he said.

You can also ask for a lawyer -- remember that number you held onto for legal support.

If you're booked into jail, call a lawyer immediately, Sykes said.

Police can't listen in on your call if you're phoning a lawyer, but they can listen in if you're calling a friend or family member, so be aware, he said.

10. What can I do if I feel law enforcement or other officials violated my rights?

You can sue for civil rights violations.

Some protesters file large class-action suits that are occasionally successful, and sometimes authorities can pay damages when they decide litigation isn't worth it, Zick said.

But qualified immunity can shield officers from civil liability if they didn't violate a clearly established law, he said.

Qualified immunity is a legal doctrine that protects police officers accused of interfering with constitutional rights from being liable unless they violated a clearly established and defined law.

The lines are blurred at protests of what police are allowed to do and what constitutes overreaching, so "clearly established" constitutional rights are difficult to determine, Zick said.

In this way, many police officers are protected by qualified immunity, Sykes said.

11. Can my workplace fire me if they find out I attended a protest?

That depends on the contract you made with your employer when you were hired, but yes, it's possible, Sykes said.

You have stronger constitutional protections for what you do outside of work, but depending on what you agreed on when you were hired, a company may be able to terminate your employment, he said.

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If you're planning to take part in protests, know your rights. Read this. - CNN

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Opinion: Trump’s Antifa crackdown treads on First Amendment – The Detroit News

Posted: at 1:43 am

Conner Drigotas Published 11:00 p.m. ET June 11, 2020

As Michigan reaches almost two weeks of largely nonviolent protests, trouble is brewing at the federal level that could impact the civil liberties of citizens exercising their First Amendment rights.

As demonstrations unfolded across America following the killing of George Floyd, President Donald Trump said hed label Antifa a terrorist organization. Despite uncertainty as to what authority this declaration-by-tweet carries, the Department of Justicemoved to take action. According to a press release put out the same day by Attorney General William Barr, Federal law enforcement actions will be directed at apprehending and charging Antifa leadership.

While anti-protest factions may celebrate this move now, Barrs broad policy is a danger to the First Amendment promises of free speech and free assembly for everyone. Indeed, laws like the Patriot Act remove key civil rights protections for anyone defined as a terrorist, justly or otherwise. Even now, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has been given new powers to begin surveillance of protestors.

President Donald Trump speaks during a roundtable discussion in the Cabinet Room at the White House, Wednesday, June 10, 2020, in Washington.(Photo: Patrick Semansky, AP)

The Barr Memorandum also leaves open how the Justice Department may choose to define membership in what is clearly a grassroots effort. The civil rights implications are significant, and according to some, Trumps declaration may not be legally binding. It may take years to get a court ruling, but in the meantime, Trumps declaration seems likely to fan the flames.

The impact of this executive power could also be unpleasant for Conservatives. Outspoken groups like the Tea Party, regional militia groups, or local organizations that wouldnt support a liberal presidents agenda may find themselves under fire, corralled, and imprisoned under this broad order. When a left-leaning future president is running the White House, these precedents could be used in the same irresponsible fashion. Domestic terrorism is poorly defined, leaving discretion to unelected bureaucrats.

Arresting and prosecuting those who see chaos as an opportunity to loot and destroy private property is one thing. In this case, however, the federal government is also being opportunistic, expanding powers at a moment where checking overreach is essential. The protests are, in many ways, protesting overreaching government power, albeit channeled through police departments. The American people need less big brother and more local control to effectively quell violence and address issues of police misconduct. We wont heal the cultural divide by empowering a more hierarchical power structure. If a president can define American citizens as terrorists via tweet, making them felons, we are all at risk of losing our rights.

Some may think this analysis is overdramatic. The best-case scenario is that those critics are correct. History, however, has shown that silencing opposition is a typical step toward authoritarianism. In an attempt to bring order, extensive government powers have become law under the guise of restoring order during times of unrest.

The voices on the right and left seem to be speaking different languages. Something is lost in translation between the conservative drive for law-and-order and the lefts push for justice and equality. Small-government conservatives are a rarity right now, but that voice is needed. We need principles, not politics, to reign in the power of the growing state. Both sides of the ideological spectrum should work together to address the growing concerns about police militarization.

Some conservatives are rightly questioning the police practices that are foundational to the modern conception of law and order. But not enough, and not in the highest levels of government, where policy is set. This is a quintessential example of how government grows when partisan politics run the system. As one party seeks to make a power play against its opposition, shortsighted policy making enshrines governmental powers long past the current moment. Trump shouldnt have this power, nor should anyone else.

If the goal is to improve our culture, pursue a better future for all people, and seek justice when systemic violence occurs, the answer is, as it has always been, more liberty and less government.

Conner Drigotas is the director of communications and development at a national law firm and is a contributor to Young Voices, a nonprofit providing pro bono media placement services to young conservative writers. He lives inBethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Read or Share this story: https://www.detroitnews.com/story/opinion/2020/06/12/opinion-trumps-antifa-crackdown-could-cause-trouble/5337478002/

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First Amendment Rights and Twitter, Encryption Backdoors – Security Boulevard

Posted: June 1, 2020 at 3:39 am

In episode 123 for June 1st 2020: The controversy continues over fact checking and First Amendment rights on Twitter, and why government mandated encryption backdoors are bad for everyones security.

** Show notes and links mentioned on the show **

Trump to sign executive order aimed at cracking down on Facebook and Twitterhttps://www.cnbc.com/2020/05/28/trump-to-sign-executive-order-aimed-at-cracking-down-on-facebook-twitter.html

The law enforcement backdoor debate continueshttps://www.helpnetsecurity.com/2020/05/26/backdoor-encryption/

OWASP Top 10 2020 Data Analysis Planhttps://owasp.org/www-project-top-ten/

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The post First Amendment Rights and Twitter, Encryption Backdoors appeared first on Shared Security Podcast.

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*** This is a Security Bloggers Network syndicated blog from Shared Security Podcast authored by Tom Eston. Read the original post at: https://sharedsecurity.net/2020/06/01/first-amendment-rights-and-twitter-encryption-backdoors/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=first-amendment-rights-and-twitter-encryption-backdoors

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Trump, Twitter and the First Amendment – The New York Times

Posted: at 3:39 am

To the Editor:

Re Trump Claims Hes Protecting Free Speech by Reining In Tech Giants (news article, May 29):

It shouldnt surprise anyone that Donald Trump claims hes being denied his right to speak when Twitter marks his lies with a fact-check asterisk. He has no clue that the First Amendments prohibition on interfering with ones speech rights applies only to government.

But his executive order purporting to strip the company of liability protection, a pathetic (and unlawful) attempt to retaliate, is itself government action to chill and limit speech. Maybe he should read the First Amendment its only 45 words long.

Richard YospinNewton, Mass.

To the Editor:

Re What Would Happen if Twitter Banned Trump?, by Charlie Warzel (Opinion, nytimes.com, May 27):

Twitter is more than a little late to the party with its Get the Facts link appended to President Trumps latest lies about mail-in voting. It seems to me that short of barring Mr. Trump from Twitter, the least that Twitter could do would be to append a Get the Facts link to every one of his tweets that contain outright lies, baseless accusations, support for racist and white supremacist beliefs, bullying based on peoples appearance, and implicit or outright threats of violence. In other words, pretty much everything that he tweets.

Thom ThackerIrvington, N.Y.

To the Editor:

In Im Not Mrs. America. Thats the Point (Op-Ed, nytimes.com, May 21), Im afraid that Cate Blanchett misses the point. She posits a deep divide between feminists and the followers of Phyllis Schlafly, the character she plays, and calls that divide the difference between staying at home and making your way in the world, or between the demands of faith and the indulgence of the self.

In fact, there are homemakers, worldly women and women of faith on both sides of an ideological and political divide that is all too real.

At the same time, Ms. Blanchett describes the divide as an illusion and a simplified antagonism. In truth, the divide between feminists and anti-feminists is real and critical. Its the difference between those of us who consider women to be full human beings deserving of equal rights, dignity and the freedom to control our own bodies, and those who believe that women should be submissive to men, taken care of by men and subject to male authority.

Ms. Blanchetts faith in art to bridge her misconstrued divide trivializes the urgent threats from todays Schlafly clones, who would deny women access to birth control, reproductive autonomy, child care and a host of other rights that are hardly illusory.

Letty Cottin PogrebinStockbridge, Mass.The writer is a founding editor of Ms. magazine and the author of several books about womens issues.

Larry Kramer Gave Hope to Those With AIDS

To the Editor:

Re Larry Kramer, 1935-2020: An Activist Who Gave People With AIDS a Voice. A Loud Voice (front page, May 28):

Larry Kramer gave AIDS patients something intangible, but vitally important. He gave them hope.

My brother Alan first told me about Larry and the Gay Mens Health Crisis in the early 1980s, when Alan was first diagnosed. Alan had hope that people like Larry could make enough noise, fast-track medicine and save lives, including my brothers. The only thing that Larry couldnt give many of them, including Alan, was enough time.

My brother died on April 1, 1990, in San Francisco. While time was not on Alans side, Larry Kramer did make a difference, and countless people are alive today because of him.

Tom GoodmanNew York

To the Editor:

Where Did All the New Yorkers Go? Follow the Mail (news article, May 19):

A big thank you goes out to my neighbors on the Upper West Side who decided to flee the city. I stayed and fortunately am not feeling lonely and isolated. I did not really need your tracking data to tell me my building was nearly empty, but confirmation is nice.

Thank you, fellow residents, for making me feel safer from contracting the virus, with fewer people to come in contact with: no crowded elevators in the building or traffic in the lobby, and no competition in the laundry room. And fewer people in the park, on the streets and at the supermarket.

Having been recently widowed, and healthy but in the at-risk age group, I have learned to live alone and cope as best I can with the pandemic. Some days the only other human I interact with in person is the doorman, who greets me in the morning with my newspaper. The wonderful staff of my building are here, and I thank them for their presence, as well as the other essential workers who keep this city running.

I count my blessings daily.

Betty WelkerNew York

To the Editor:

Re With Classes or Without Them, Colleges Want to Play Football (front page, May 28):

From Horse Feathers in 1932, starring the Marx Brothers:

Groucho (as Quincy Adams Wagstaff, a new college president): Have we got a stadium?

Faculty: Yes.

Groucho: Have we got a college?

Faculty: Yes.

Groucho: Well, we cant support both. Tomorrow we start tearing down the college.

Mark FeldmanKirkwood, Mo.

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Arrest of CNN Crew in Minneapolis a ‘Violation of First Amendment’ – Voice of America

Posted: at 3:39 am

A CNN news crew on Friday live broadcast their own arrest by police in the U.S. state of Minnesota, as they covered protests over the death of an African-American man.

Police handcuffed and arrested CNN reporter Omar Jimenez, producer Bill Kirkos and photojournalist Leonel Mendez at about 5 a.m. CT in Minneapolis, despite Jimenez identifying the crew as press. All three were later released without charge.

The arrests came amid widespread protests over the death of George Floyd, an African American man who pleaded for air while handcuffed, as a white police officer knelt on his neck.

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz issued what he called a very public apology Friday for the arrest of the CNN crew, saying, There is absolutely no reason something like this should happen. He added that he is owning this and taking full responsibility. This is a very public apology to that team. It should not happen.

CNN said on Twitter the arrests were a "clear violation of their First Amendment rights." The U.S. broadcaster added that police had asked another of their correspondents, who is white, to move but that he had not been arrested.

Josh Campbell, a reporter for CNN who was also covering the protests, said he was approached by police but not arrested.

"I was treated much differently," Campbell told CNN. The broadcaster reported that Jimenez is black and Latino, Mendez is Hispanic, and Kirkos and Campbell are both white.

The Minnesota State Patrol said on Twitter that the journalists were among four people arrested while police cleared the streets. It added that they were released after police confirmed they were media.

Bruce Gordon, director of communications for the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, directed VOA to the state patrol tweet on the incident posted earlier on Friday, and Governor Walz's comments at a news conference.

Walz said there was "absolutely no reason something like this should happen."

"In a situation like this, even if you're clearing an area, we have got to ensure that there is a safe spot for journalism to tell the story. The issue here is trust," Walz said.

The National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) president, Dorothy Tucker, condemned the arrests as "unnecessary, and a violation of the First Amendment."

The Save Journalism Project said Jimenez's arrest "underscores the reasons for the protests he was covering."

"Jimenez was arrested for doing his job, accurately reporting to the American people what is happening during an ongoing crisis. He was arrested for reporting on the protests of the killing of George Floyd an unarmed black man by Minneapolis police while being black himself," the free press advocacy group said.

Since 2017, more than 40 journalists have been arrested and at least 19 journalists had equipment searched or seized while covering protests, according to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, which documents press freedom violations across the United States.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker told VOA it is currently investigating at least four cases of journalists being "hit with crowd-control projectiles" during protests in Minneapolis recent days.

"Protests can be dangerous places for journalists. Since the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker began documenting aggressions against the press in 2017, we've published more than 100 incidents of journalists either arrested, assaulted, had their equipment damaged or searched or seized while reporting from protests," Kirstin McCudden, managing editor of the Tracker, told VOA.

The Committee to Protect Journalists has previously reported that journalists of color say covering protests carries additional risk.

Two African-American reporters for WHAM-TV were arrested while covering protests in Rochester, New York, over police brutality in July 2016. And during the 2014 riots in Ferguson, Missouri, then-Washington Post national correspondent and NABJ's Emerging Journalist of the Year Wesley Lowery was arrested alongside Huffington Post reporter Ryan Reilly, covering the unrest.

"I wasn't shocked, I wasn't surprised," Lowery said of watching footage of Friday's arrest in Minneapolis.

"And this is not to excuse the behavior at all," he told VOA, adding that he knew from his own experience that these "dynamic situations" make it difficult for law enforcement to figure out what to do. "They're receiving pressure to keep order; they're receiving pressure to respect First Amendment rights which, again, I unequivocally believe they need to but I understand how poor decisions can be made in that pressure cooker."

Lowery said official condemnation in these situations is vital.

He is now a correspondent for "60 in 6," a soon-to-launch spinoff of the CBS series 60 Minutes that is scheduled to stream on Quibi mobile platforms.

Rights groups have condemned the arrests as an assault on press freedom.

"The First Amendment protects news-gathering, and prohibits the government from using police power as a pretext for interfering with press freedoms. Arresting journalists to prevent reporting on a public demonstration is not acceptable," said Bruce Brown, executive director of the Reporters Committee for the Free Press.

"News coverage of protests like the one in Minneapolis is essential to informing the public and understanding the concerns of our communities."

The CPJ said the arrests "ring of intimidation" and that journalists should be free to report without fear of retaliation.

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ACLU issues warning to police to protect First Amendment rights of protesters – KATC Lafayette News

Posted: at 3:39 am

The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana on Friday issued a warning to state and local law enforcement to respect the First Amendment rights of protesters.

As protests break out nationwide over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the organization reminded officials of law enforcement's pledge to respect the right to peacefully protest as part of a 2016 settlement.

That year, Louisiana and Baton Rouge law enforcement agencies agreed to settle a civil rights lawsuit that stemmed from Alton Sterling's death. Sterling was shot and killed by a Baton Rouge Police Officer. In that settlement signed by law enforcement and civil rights advocates, law enforcement agreed to recognize the rights of all people to "recognize the rights of all persons to assemble and engage in the public for the purpose of peaceful public discourse and protest."

"The protests in Minnesota and across the country are a direct response to the systemic violence and racial terror that police have perpetrated in Black communities for centuries," said Alanah Odoms Hebert, ACLU of Louisiana executive director. "Just weeks from the anniversary of Alton Sterling's brutal killing at the hands of Baton Rouge police, the cold-blooded murder of George Floyd as he desperately cried for help is a reminder of the deadly toll that systemic racism takes on our communities each and every day. These officers must be held accountable - but much more than that, every one of us has an obligation to address the deeply-rooted racism that pervades our institutions and poisons our society. As we stand in solidarity with all those mourning and demonstrating against George Floyd's murder, we remind state and local law enforcement of the commitment they made to respect protesters' First Amendment rights and avoid excessive or militarized responses to peaceful protest activity."

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First Amendment Group Opposes Webinars On Toll Roads – WUSF News

Posted: at 3:39 am

Open government advocates want the brakes applied to upcoming webinars about controversial toll-road projects, contending that more-inclusive in-person meetings should be held as the state reopens amid the coronavirus pandemic.

While a state Department of Transportation spokeswoman said the webinar plans will continue, the First Amendment Foundation also questioned the legality of six webinars already held by task forces working on the projects, which would stretch from Collier County to the Georgia border.

The webinars are a poor substitute for the kind of government that is required by Florida's Sunshine Law, which does apply to the M-CORES task force meetings, First Amendment Foundation President Pamela Marsh wrote Thursday to Transportation Secretary Kevin Thibault, using an acronym for the projects that the state has dubbed the Multi-use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance.

Marsh wrote that the webinars should be postponed (and preferably canceled) until everyone interested in attending can be accommodated. Marsh added that state administrative rules require meetings to be halted if technical problems develop with the communications network, which she said occurred during each meeting.

All portions of the Sunshine Law continue to apply even during this horrible pandemic, Marsh stated. No part of the law has been suspended or modified as applied to state agencies. As a result, I respectfully request that FDOT exercise patience, cancel any and all M-CORES task force meetings, and reschedule the meetings only when members of the task force and Florida citizens can fully participate in-person and by all feasible means.

Marsh said in an email to The News Service of Florida on Friday that the intent isnt to make any threats at this time as she hopes FDOT will make a change for greater public participation.

(Disclosure: The News Service is a member of the First Amendment Foundation.)

Lawmakers last year approved a measure that set the stage for the projects, which involve extending Floridas Turnpike from Wildwood to connect with the Suncoast Parkway; extending the Suncoast Parkway north to the Georgia border; and building a toll road between Polk and Collier counties.

Webinars are planned: Wednesday for the turnpike extension; June 9 for the northern extension of the Suncoast Parkway; and June 11 for the project between Polk ad Collier counties.

Department of Transportation spokeswoman Beth Frady said Thursday the webinars are not a replacement for task-force meetings but additional opportunities for task force members to gather input during the pandemic.

These virtual meetings have made it so anyone from South Florida to North Florida can attend and be heard, and we would expect the First Amendment Foundation to celebrate this additional transparency while we work to keep our fellow citizens safe, Frady said in an email.

Frady added that the department plans to hold in-person meetings as soon as it is safe to do so. But she also referenced state laws, which allow agencies to conduct public meetings by video.

To date, these webinars have included participation from more than 1,700 attendees, with more than 120 people providing public comment to the task forces during the designated comment period, Frady wrote. This is a higher level of participation than we have received during the in-person task force meetings, demonstrating how technology can facilitate participation in a meeting by members of the public who are not able to attend in person.

The proposed roads, signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2019, are a priority of Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, and have been backed by groups including the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Associated Industries of Florida, the Florida Ports Council and the Florida Trucking Association. Supporters say, in part, that the projects will help prepare for future growth and aid in disaster evacuations.

Environmentalists have vowed to wage war against the roads, which they maintain will devastate large rural and natural tracts of land.

Annual funding for the work is expected to reach about $140 million.

Among bills now before DeSantis are a proposal (HB 969) to set aside up to $5 million a year for broadband services to accompany the road corridors and a proposal (SB 7018) to direct the Department of Transportation to plan and build staging areas for emergency response along the turnpike system, with a priority in counties with a population of 200,000 or less in which a multi-use corridor of regional significance is located. Those bills were passed during this years legislative session.

An initial timeline called for the task forces to provide final reports by October, with construction expected to begin before the end of 2022. However, because of COVID-19, the deadline for the task-force reports has been pushed back to Nov. 15.

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Federal, California and Local Law Enforcement’s Statement on the Death of George Floyd and Riots Says They Will Continue to Work Together to Protect…

Posted: at 3:39 am

May 31, 2020 - SACRAMENTO, Calif. Federal, state and local law enforcement partners join together to condemn the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and offer sincere condolences to his family and colleagues, U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott, FBI Special Agent in Charge Sean Ragan, Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert, Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones, and Sacramento Chief of Police Daniel Hahn announced.

Mr. Floyds death is being addressed through our criminal justice system, which is moving quickly. The state prosecutor has brought murder charges against a former Minneapolis police officer. As United States Attorney General Barr announced on May 29, the Department of Justice, including the FBI, is also conducting an independent investigation to determine whether any federal civil rights laws were violated.

Peaceful protest is a time-honored tradition in our country, and we in law enforcement strive to protect these important First Amendment rights. The majority of those protesting are doing so peacefully. But when protests turn violent, this endangers the community, and law enforcement must act to protect the community. As a civilized society based upon the rule of law, we will not tolerate violence, anarchy or chaos that threatens the safety of the community.

Federal, state, and local law enforcement will continue to work together to protect the communitys First Amendment rights and to protect the community from violence and lawlessness. Federal and state felony statutes may apply.

As part of the community, we share the concerns about George Floyds death, said U.S.Attorney Scott. We also recognize that his death comes at a time when we are also fighting, as a nation, an unprecedented pandemic that has taken its toll across our country and our District. Together with state and local law enforcement, we have reached out to our community leaders to address the real and legitimate concerns about what happened to Mr. Floyd and to identify positive steps we can take going forward. Please join me in a call for unity and peace, not violence, as we work together during this difficult time.

The FBI Sacramento Field Office is deeply committed to protecting the civil rights of all people within the 34 California counties we serve, said Special Agent in Charge Sean Ragan.The FBI steadfastly investigates all allegations involving the deprivation of civil rights, including color of law violations official actions taken by persons acting under the authority of local, state, federal, or tribal laws to willfully deprive someone of a right or privilege secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States. No one is above or beyond the law. The communities we serve can depend on the FBI to methodically collect facts in order to provide unbiased and independent investigative results so prosecutors can make a charging decision.Source: DOJ

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Federal, California and Local Law Enforcement's Statement on the Death of George Floyd and Riots Says They Will Continue to Work Together to Protect...

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First Amendment Legal Expert Floyd Abrams on Trump’s Chilling Executive Order Designed to Kill Free Speech – Showbiz411

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Home law First Amendment Legal Expert Floyd Abrams on Trumps Chilling Executive Order Designed...

Floyd Abrams is one of the countrys leading legal experts on the First Amendment. Hes also the father of journalist Dan Abrams. Floyd spoke today on Dans SiriusXM radio show regarding Donald Trumps new Executive Order designed to kill free speech.

Trump is incensed by Twitter fact checking his inane, crazy and dangerous Tweets regarding mail-in ballots for voting. Trump is trying to scare his followers into believing that mailed ballots arent safe and will be tampered with. This isnt true, of course, but Trumps sadly illiterate and easily impressionable base can be told almost anything including the sky is falling and theyd believe it.

Trumps Executive Order is only about him, and his petty differences with Twitter. But it threatens the First Amendment, which hes never read.

Says Floyd Abrams:

The First Amendment issue is: can you shut up the social media entities when they engage in what they view as fact-checking? And I dont think you can. Im confident that that would violate the First Amendment. And, at the end of the day, thats what this is all about. No matter what the results are of any internal studies. What is sought here by the president, what is sought here by the drafters of the executive order, is a limitation on speech. And thats what the First Amendment does not allow.

Of course, a lot of this has to do with Trump trying to distract his base from the fact that over 100,000 people have died from corona virus, and he let it happen. Or caused it by his inaction and his easily seen clips of denying that corona virus would do any harm. The death toll rises, the new cases rise, in places where Trump voters could be mortally affected, and he wants to point the finger at anyone else.

Nevertheless, Abrams said he doesnt think Trump can get away with it.

Abrams said: At the end of the day, Im confident, maybe wrong, but Im confident that the administration will not be able to prevent Twitter and its competitors from putting in their own ultimate, for themselves, judgment that something the presidentor anyone elsesays online is inconsistent with the truth.

Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. He wrote the Intelligencer column for NY Magazine in the mid 90s, reporting on the OJ Simpson trial, as well as for the real Parade magazine (when it was owned by Conde Nast), and has written for the New York Observer, Details, Vogue, Spin, the New York Times, NY Post, Washington Post, and NY Daily News among many publications. He is the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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First Amendment Legal Expert Floyd Abrams on Trump's Chilling Executive Order Designed to Kill Free Speech - Showbiz411

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