Monday, September 21, 2015

Free speech under attack - Part 2

A New York town recently discovered that its citizens, much like San Diego's citizens from last week's post, would not meekly roll over when the police trampled their free speech rights.

Back in 2012, a 21yo man was cited for speeding in Liberty, NY. Being a normal college student, he was not happy with the $175 fine, it being enough to keep him in mac'n'cheese dinners for several months. But William Barboza paid the fine, writing a rather pointed message in college-student-ese, venting his ire on the payment form.

Instead of accepting the payment like a normal police department, the town rejected the payment and had Mr. Barboza arrested and charged with aggravated harassment.

An ENTIRE YEAR passed before these charges were dropped by a different judge who was paying attention when he took Constitutional Law in law school all those years ago.

Barboza then sued the town in federal court for violating his free speech rights. Not surprisingly, last week the federal court agreed with him.

Okay, so the “few harmless words” were rather crude, to put it mildly. But nothing says Barboza argued with the police officer who cited him. He did not fight the ticket. He apparently paid the fine on time [unlike a large percentage of folks who choose to ignore tickets and hope they go away]. He did not encourage others to riot in the streets.

He did not complain anonymously.

If you can't complain about your government, what's the point of having the First Amendment?

Thankfully, a federal judge agreed.

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