First Amendment Freedoms

Freedom of Speech, Religion, the Press, and the right to Peacefully Assemble and Protest the Government

“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 the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”  1789

Vital: Trump has launched his own Facebook News channel and appointed an FCC Chair who approved the Sinclair-Tribune merger which is now insisting on “must-run” Trump-produced propaganda segments in 72% of American households including Democratic strongholds of Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York.  August 6, 2017: Politico  How Trump’s FCC aided Sinclair’s expansion  Use of a regulatory loophole will allow Sinclair to reach 72 percent of U.S. households after buying Tribune’s stations.

Shareblue“FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, a Republican appointed by Trump, used a loophole called the “UHF discount” to let Sinclair increase its portfolio of over 170 stations with 42 stations from Tribune Media. Many of the new stations, which will now be forced to air the “must-run” pro-Trump propagandasegments other Sinclair stations now broadcast, are located in major cities like New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles.

Before the Trump assist, Sinclair was not in as many large cities, with the power to target millions more Americans in states that didn’t vote for Trump in 2016.

Politico reports that “the Tribune deal would not have been viable if not for Pai’s intervention.” Without the use of the loophole, Sinclair would be constrained to the congressionally mandated cap of 39 percent reach for local station owners. In exchange for backing Trump during the campaign, Sinclair now has access to 72 percent of U.S. households for its propaganda broadcasts.

Former FCC chairman Tom Wheeler slammed the move, noting, “There was funny math created to allow the count to come up to still be below 39 percent, wink wink.” Shareblue

First Amendment Freedoms Under Attack

The Freedoms are different, but intertwined and vital to Democracy.  The attacks at these freedoms come from many directions and may not seem like much all on their own, but as cases become legal precedent, the Supreme Court builds an arsenal to use against its people if it so chooses. Everything works together and hangs in a delicate balance that depends on access to truth. The Public must know the truth to vote responsibly and not as some billionaire demands as he threatens campaign financing, which was blatant as the Koch brothers demanded repeal of the ACA.

The Press has driven the investigations into the Trump Administration. Would we know about any of it without them? Leaks of classified information are illegal, but when everyone is corrupt and no one to be trusted, where does one turn? It’s the thing that people appreciate about Wikileaks. Things the general public should know The legitimate media run by a code of ethics and editors to answer to, is clearly under attack. The National Enquirer is given far more respect and access by the White House than CNN, which has been under attack. Sinclair Broadcasting bought Tribune Entertainment in May 2017, creating a broadcast television giant with plans to demand the Alt-Right, fake news, which promotes lies and misconception, fear and hatred. In Berkeley and Portland especially, the Alt-Right has been protesting its right to use Hate Speech as it did in the Freedom of the Press Rally.

It may be legally tolerated to lie to the public without accepting money (Fraud) and promote horrible things like the current calls to Civil War and violence against minorities, but is it responsible and ethical? Why should Richard Spencer or Stephen Miller say and do anything they want, while a comedian or television host risks losing their career because Trump has no sense of humor about himself? Worse yet, the legitimate news has been shut out of White House Press Briefings because their reports don’t flatter him.  Walter Shaub, Director of the Ethics Office, resigned on July 6, 2017.  NPR

Stephen Colbert and Kathy Griffen have been threatened, but Trump, the Alt-Right and many other people have been railing against Political Correctness. Trump called people many names and supporters even dismissed his recorded and demeaning 2005 Access Hollywood “grab ’em by the pussy” tape as “locker room/men’s” talk, while Billy Bush was fired after the October 7, 2016, discovery and heroes at Fox have followed suit.  Trump’s bullying words and inability to receive criticism have now materialized into real threats: against the Press to investigate and report truth thereby enabling a functioning democracy; and the Freedom of Speech to keep our leaders in check and express our discontent thereby preventing tyranny. These precious and precarious freedoms are in place for a reason and protect everyone. They are two of the closely intertwined freedoms that make America great.

Tech Billionaire (1st VC Facebook investor) Peter Thiel bankrolled the lawsuit defending Hulk Hogan against Gawker’s release of a sex tape.”Why should I care? Critics have argued that Thiel’s money gives other billionaires a blueprint for how to silence media outlets they dislike.” Forbes June 21, 2016  Thiel is a supporter of Alt-Right trolls who have enacted “Meme Wars” against Presidential elections in the US, UK, and France thus far.

FCC to investigate, ‘take appropriate action’ on Colbert’s Trump rant  The Hill   May 5, 2017

How Media Consolidation Threatens Democracy: 857 Channels (and Nothing On) BillMoyers.com staff

The National Enquirer Smears Trump Rivals While He Goes Unscathed — Coincidence?  Uproxx May 20, 2016    Prejudicial coverage during the Trump campaign for the owner, Dave Pecker’s, friend.

The National Enquirer Allegedly Paid A Trump Mistress $150K For The Rights To Her Story And Sat On It  Uproxx  November 5, 2016    In 2006, Playmate Enquirer contributor signed away rights to keep hush-hush.

Anti-Protesting Laws

The Republicans and right-wing have been pushing fear of Anti-Trump protesters, using every instance of violence to justify their hatred of liberals. The oil companies are using it to secure their pipelines and financial interest while disobeying Native Americans treaties and wishes of the people. The politicians who take their campaign donations or want no visible accountability to their constituents happily write laws which are stripping us of our rights, one by one.

The Alt-Right has been promoting conspiracies of paid protesters connected to George Soros. Washington Times 

In an Unprecedented Court Escalation, Trump Protesters Could Be Facing Decades in Prison for Inauguration Demonstrations A frightening crackdown on free speech is underway across the country. 

18 states have responded by proposing over 30 bills aimed at suppressing demonstrations by increasing and expanding penalties for protesters. A new law in Missouri prohibits protesters from covering their faces with masks or other disguises. Florida, Tennessee, Georgia and Iowa have introduced bills that call for increased penalties for blocking traffic and demonstrating on private property.

The American Civil Liberties Union has called these new laws “unconstitutional,” vowing to “fight in statehouses against any bill that violates the First Amendment.”

While several defendants have pleaded guilty to shorten their sentences, about 130 of the defendants have joined a “points of unity” agreement pledging to reject any potential plea deals and cooperation with prosecutors. On May 26, 21 defendants filed motions to have their cases dismissed.

Following the January 20 arrests, lawyers for some of the arrested protesters filed a class action lawsuit against the MPD alleging that law enforcement engaged in excessive use of force and conducted false arrests. The Office of Police Complaints, a D.C. government agency, has called for an independent investigation evaluating the actions of MPD officers that day.” Alternet

Oklahoma Governor [Mary Fallin] Signs Anti-Protest Law Imposing Huge Fines On “Conspirator” Organizations   May 3, 2017 HB 1123

The Oklahoma law signed this week is unique, however, in its broad targeting of groups “conspiring” with protesters accused of trespassing. It takes aim at environmental organizations Republicans have blamed for anti-pipeline protests that have become costly for local governments… A section of the law defining “critical infrastructure” includes various types of fossil fuel facilities. Oklahoma is a center of the oil and gas industry and home of the self-styled “Pipeline Crossroads of the World” in Cushing. “Trespass on property containing a “critical infrastructure facility” under the newly signed trespassing law individuals will face a felony and a minimum $10,000 fine if a court determines they entered property intending to damage, vandalize, deface, “impede or inhibit operations of the facility.” Should the trespasser actually succeed in “tampering” with the infrastructure, they face a $100,000 fine or 10 years of imprisonment.  Significantly, the statute also implicates any organization “found to be a conspirator” with the trespasser, threatening collaborator groups with a fine “ten times” that imposed on the intruder — as much as $1 million in cases involving damage. [Doug] Parr noted that under the new trespassing law a violation as minor as spray-painting a message on an oil facility could plausibly lead to $100,000 in fines if a court determined it was “defacing equipment.” “Say they lock themselves to a piece of construction equipment, and a claim can be made that there were damages from that trespass,” Parr said.  A second bill, passed by the Oklahoma House of Representatives Thursday, would permit “vicarious liability” for groups that “compensate” protesters accused of trespassing. Parr said “Does this statute create a civil action for a pipeline company to then go after a person or organization that posted bond or helped pay for a lawyer for that civil disobedience?” According to Public Radio Tulsa, Democrat Rep. Cory Williams demanded to know the definition of “compensation” under the liability bill. “Is it a check? Is it money? Is it staying at somebody’s house?” he asked.”

The bill’s author reportedly called it a response to the Dakota Access pipeline protests, aimed directly at organizers fighting to stop the Diamond pipeline, a project of Valero and All American Pipeline that would transport oil from Oklahoma to Tennessee. Protests against the pipeline have already begun and construction is scheduled for completion before the end of the year.

The trope of the “professional protester” has long been a talking point for those who disagree with participants’ politics. It was used widely this year by Republicans frustrated by a series of anti-Trump protests after his election and inauguration. It was also used against demonstrators involved in massive actions in defiance of the Dakota Access pipeline in North Dakota, which were violently repressed by police. North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum is seeking $38 million in compensation from the federal government for costs associated with the police response and with cleaning up resistance camps whose residents were evicted in February.

“That would be for the courts to decide,” replied Rep. Mark McBride, the bill’s author.

Doug Parr has represented numerous environmental activists in Oklahoma protest cases. In an interview with The Intercept the attorney noted the liability bill’s loose wording.

And he said the law amplifies risks for groups that organize protest actions, who can’t always account for the diversity of tactics used by attendees. “Suppose an organization decides they want to support a perfectly legal, no civil disobedience, action,” he said. “Somebody in that crowd, who has come to the protest at the request of that organization, then jumps the fence and runs in there and spray-paints on a storage tank, ‘This equipment causes earthquakes. Shut it down.’ … These statutes could be used to attack that organization and impose financial liability on them.”

Johnson Bridgwater, head of the Oklahoma chapter of the Sierra Club, which opposes the Diamond pipeline, noted that the club has an official policy against participation in civil disobedience. (Its board suspended the rule in 2013 before executive director Michael Brune was arrested in a protest calling for then-President Barack Obama to reject the Keystone XL Pipeline.) However, he said, “We don’t necessarily know everyone who’s attending the events,” adding, “There is a strong and real fear that this could be used as an attempt to crush a group or a chapter of Sierra Club unfairly.”

Bold Oklahoma is part of a coalition attempting to halt the Diamond pipeline’s construction. Asked whether the group supports direct action, director Mekasi Camp Horinek replied, “We stand behind the people, and if people choose to do that, we’re going to stand behind them in that choice, but that’s always an individual choice. There’s nobody that’s going to tell somebody else to do something illegal or put their bodies or their families in harm’s way.”

Horinek traveled to North Dakota and was arrested with others opposing the Dakota Access pipeline. “That’s exactly what they were saying about me, that I was an out-of-state, paid protester, because I worked for an environmental organization,” he said. “I don’t think that when we’re talking about life, not only the life of our children and the life of our brothers and sisters, but when we’re talking about life itself, all living things on the planet, that state borders are going to deter or stop anybody from going to try to protect a body of water.”

“I’m an enrolled member of the Ponca Nation, and we were forcefully removed to the state of Oklahoma in 1876,” he said. Before that, his tribe relied on the Missouri River, the body of water Standing Rock tribal members sought to protect by blocking the oil pipeline. “I was there first as a father, as a son, as a brother. Secondly I was there as a Ponca tribal member, protecting the Missouri River. Last but not least, I was representing the Bold organization that I work for.”

As of April 2, Common Dreams counted 19 anti-protest bills across the United States. Bills in Colorado, North Dakota, and South Dakota were directlyaimed at activists attempting to block oil and gas infrastructure. Other laws, in places like Minnesota, responded to protests in 2015 and 2016 that blocked roads and highways after police killings of black men and women in various cities.

Bridgwater said his biggest concern is reserved for citizens who might think twice before attending a protest. “We see all of these bills as nothing more than corporate America being fearful of how successful the Standing Rock protests were.”

The Intercept  


WHAT SPEECH ISN’T COVERED UNDER THE FIRST AMENDMENT?
  • Obscenity (the definition relies on context, but regular old porn is not considered obscene)
  • Fighting words
  • Defamation
  • Child pornography
  • Perjury
  • Blackmail
  • Incitement to imminent lawless action
  • True threats
  • Solicitations to commit crimes
  • Plagiarism of copyrighted material

Source: The Newseum Institute