Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Secret Service Owes America an Explanation for Violation of Librarian's 1st Amendment Rights at McCain Townhall Meeting

You've all likely read about this, and/or seen the video below (my student, Mike Plugh, first brought this to my attention):

A 60-year old librarian in Denver was carrying a sign with the message, McCain=Bush, as she waited to attend a McCain town hall meeting at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts (a public venue). Some guy in a beige jacket asks her to remove the sign. She refuses. An onlooker asks him why she's been asked to remove the sign. The beige jacket responds that he was "asked" to do this, "by representatives of the Secret Service." Soon after, a Denver policeman starts talking, and informs the librarian that she has two choices: keep the sign, and be issued a ticket for "trespass," or get rid of the sign, in which case she can continue to stand in line to attend the McCain town hall event. Carol Kreck, the brave librarian, takes the ticket. She's escorted off the public premises, and tells the camera that she's been told that, if she returns, she'll be arrested.

This is one of the most outrageous violations of the First Amendment I've seen in a long time. Not a case of allegedly indecent broadcasting, in which there is at least a confused (and unconstitutional) Federal Communications Act to back it up. Not a shield law issue, which, although profound in its threat to the First Amendment, is not a direct assault upon it.

No, this is about as straight-up an attack on the First Amendment as you can get - an attack on exactly what Jefferson and our Founding Fathers were protecting in the very First Amendment to our Constitution: the right of every citizen to express her or his political views, unobstructed by the government.

What's to be done?

1. The Secret Service owes America an explanation. If they indeed put the beige jacket and the Denver police up to harassing and preventing Ms. Kreck from exercising her First Amendment rights, then those in the Secret Service who did this should be fired and brought up on criminal charges.

2. If the beige jacket was lying, and was not told to do this by the Secret Service, then he should be brought up on harassment and other criminal charges.

3. The Denver police in either case were pathetic. If the Secret Service ordered them to harass Ms. Kreck, they should have refused to follow the order, and should be reprimanded for such ignorance of the First Amendment. If the Secret Service gave no such order, and they harassed Ms. Kreck on the basis of what the beige suit told them, then they should be fired.

It's time we started standing up for our rights.

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