No First Amendment Rights in Ferguson

At this point it’s pretty fucking obvious that the First Amendment doesn’t apply in Ferguson, Missouri anymore. But the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has finally come out and declared it so:

Police in Ferguson, Mo., on Monday began telling protesters – who have been gathered for days demanding justice for the death of an unarmed teenager at the hands of police – that they were no longer allowed to stand in place for more than five seconds, but had to keep moving.

“When inquiries were made to law enforcement officers regarding which law prohibits gathering or standing for more than five seconds on public sidewalks,” the ACLU of Missouri wrote in its emergency federal court filing to block the apparent policy, “the officers indicated that they did not know and that it did not matter. The officers further indicated that they were following the orders of their supervisors, whom they refused to name.” The ACLU argued the policy was a prior restraint on speech and asked for a temporary restraining order.

As if the emphasis the ACLU’s point law enforcers in Ferguson put their boots on the faces of nine protesters, one of whom was a 90 year-old Holocaust survivor:

She knew about a gathering in downtown St. Louis to protest Missouri Governor Jay Nixon’s decision to activate the National Guard. As she and her fellow protesters peacefully marched towards the Wainwright Building, where Nixon keeps an office, they chanted “Hey, hey! Ho, ho! National Guard has got to go!” and “Hands up! Don’t shoot!” according to The Nation. Some people gave speeches. Others held signs. Epstein says she and her fellow protesters aimed to walk into Nixon’s office and formally ask him to de-escalate the situation in Ferguson. But police and security officers blocked the door, preventing them from entering.

“I really didn’t think about being arrested or doing anything like that,” Epstein told Newsweek. “I was just going to be somebody in the crowd. I guess maybe I was impulsive: Someone said, ‘Who is willing to be arrested if that happens?’ I said, ‘Yeah, I’m willing.’”

A police officer informed the crowd that Nixon and his staff were not in the building, Epstein says, and urged them to leave. When she and eight other protesters refused, they were arrested for failure to disperse. Police handcuffed Epstein behind her back and took her to a nearby police substation. She was booked, given a court date of October 21, and then told she could leave.

I’m sure that won’t fan the flames even more! Sheesh. With the way law enforcers in Ferguson are acting you’d think they were trying to ignite the powder key that city has become.

We keep hearing about the violence occurring in Ferguson as a justification for law enforcer tactics. But law enforcer tactics are instigating violence by depriving people of peaceful means of addressing this situation. When people are being arrested for reporting on the situation, tear gassed for assembling peacefully, and being prevented from petitioning their government then the people perpetuating violence are going to feel justified and the people barred from peaceful action may turn to violent action instead.

Civil unrest needs to be handled with calm and cool heads. When the civil unrest is caused by police actions then the only way to properly resolve the situation is to have a neutral third party investigate the matter and make all information regarding the investigation available to the people. By actively oppressing peaceful protesters and restricting information regarding the investigation the law enforcers of Ferguson are guaranteeing continued civil unrest.