Thursday, May 27, 2004

FREE SPEECH RESTRICTIONS IN A PUBLIC PARK

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Just in case you haven't had enough of Christian street preachers being prevented from spreading their message, here's another story:
Split verdict reached for street preachers

CHRISTIAN EXAMINER

HARRISBURG, Penn. — Three pastors conducting street preaching during a PrideFest event last year earned mixed court verdicts April for trespass and disorderly conduct.
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The ministers were arrested July 26 while evangelizing outside of a public park where the annual gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender PrideFest event was taking place. The daylong event featured various activities, including the sale of pornographic materials, public nudity, men dressed like women and obscene language over a public address system.

The ministers were not permitted inside the public park, so they remained on public property outside the main entrance. They were arrested while they were preaching in this public area.

The arresting officer, Stephanie Barrelet, who was filmed on video hugging other lesbian women entering the pride event, jailed Grove, Garisto, and Marcavage for several hours until the PrideFest event was over. Lymon, the first to be arrested, was cited and released.
Here's some commentary on this story:
This is an odd news story, and perhaps there is more to it than this source is telling. I can't seem to find any other coverage of what would seem to be a pretty gross violation of freedom of speech. But perhaps it is because of who did the complaining.
And more:
It's hard to tell what exactly the protesters were doing, so perhaps some of their conduct was indeed punishable; the stories unfortunately don't give many details.

But I think that even given the abortion clinic buffer zone cases, there's no justification for imposing such a 100-foot-diameter buffer zone around a political event, with little evidence of past court orders that had been flouted (as in Madsen) or of a serious threat of more than just possible fisticuffs (as was the case in the Second Circuit case a year or two ago that involved an intended protest outside the United Nations).
I'm interested to see what the ACLU does. It sued the LDS Church for restricting speech on its own property. Will it sue the police officer and the city for restricting speech in a public park?

Enquiring minds wanna know!