No Freedom of Speech For Protesters
The filing was spurred by a case brought by three protesters who allege they were roughed up and tossed out of a March 2016 campaign rally in Louisville, Kentucky by riled-up Trump supporters incited by Trump’s calls from the stage to “get ’em out of here!” writes Politico’s Kenneth P. Vogel.
Trump’s lawyers contend that his requests to remove the protesters are covered by the First Amendment. However, the federal district judge presiding over the case issued a ruling last month that questioned the attorneys’ argument, along with the claim that Trump didn’t want his supporters to use force.
But the lawyers insist Trump specifically urged his supporters not to use violence and said “Don’t hurt ’em.”
U.S. District Court Judge David Hale, appointed by President Barack Obama, issued last month’s ruling. Now, Trump’s lawyers are asking him to stop proceedings while they appeal the ruling in a higher court. The president’s legal team contend that Trump had a right to call for the removal of the protesters because they “interfered with the Trump campaign’s First Amendment right.”
“Of course, protesters have their own First Amendment right to express dissenting views, but they have no right to do so as part of the campaign rally of the political candidates they oppose,” the team said.
“[Even] if Mr. Trump implicitly instructed the audience to remove the protesters by using force if necessary, his speech was still entirely lawful and protected under the First Amendment unless he advocated a greater degree of force than was necessary under the circumstances.”
“Absent that type of lawful advocacy, Mr. Trump cannot be held liable for incitement. It makes no difference whether the crowd reacted with unlawful violence beyond what Mr. Trump advocated.”
But during his rallies, Trump has openly told his supporters he’d pay the legal bills of supporters who fought protesters. His lawyers maintain that the protesters chanted and held up signs depicting Trump’s head on a pig’s body and several other anti-Trump messages.
Trump’s legal team seems to have rather one-sided views about the First Amendment. They don’t seem to realize that it guarantees the protesters the right to speak freely.
Let’s take a look at the First Amendment itself. It reads:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or of the right of the people to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
The First Amendment is pretty clear. If Trump can speak at his rallies, so can the demonstrators. Nowhere does this amendment say anything about throwing protesters out if they interrupt your speech. Nowhere does it say that a president can obstruct the freedom of the press, and Trump’s been really doing that. A lot. Even to the point of banning news media from the Oval Office.
Perhaps Trump and his lawyers need to read The Constitution. That would be a good start.
Photo by Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Image
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