Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Did Law Enforcement Officers Violate First Amendment Rights at McCain Rally?

I was shocked when I read the PNJ coverage of today’s McCain rally at PJC. The paper said, “Minutes after the event began, a sign that read, "Republicans Against McCain," was confiscated by law enforcement officers from a small group of individuals.”

The PNJ article was short on their details of the incident between the protesters and law enforcement officer, but posters commenting on the story were quick to fill in the details.

YourStar99 wrote, “I was standing right beside the one young man when the police officer came and said something along the lines of "I take the sign or I take you," so he gave it to the officer, and they all walked out.” The poster added, “They hadn't caused any trouble or disturbance besides the sign.”

This account of the incident leads me to believe the law enforcement officer violated the first amendment rights of the protestors. The protestors were quietly protesting McCain’s presence and the law enforcement officer trampled on their rights. They weren’t disturbing the rally by shouting things that would stop it.

Forum poster Goatman tries to make the case that law enforcement officers were allowed to confiscate the protestor’s sign because the campaign rented the PJC facility and the rally was a private event. Goatman might be right if the law enforcement officer was hired by the campaign and off-duty.

But, even if the McCain campaign did rent the arena at PJC and the cop was off-duty, can we still consider the rally private? Today’s McCain event was open to anyone who wanted to attend. The line between public and private is really blurry.

Does anyone know if the law enforcement officer was off-duty? Is there anyone who saw the incident and wants to share what they saw?


af said...

I held the sign, they threatened me by saying " I take you or the sign"

CDR Wolf said...

I went back in afterward to see if I could reclaim the sign. I spoke to both the campus police and a few members of the event staff. The police made jokes saying that they didn't take it and maybe the secret service took it. As I walked away from them I could hear them insulting me and saying how they can do what they want. The event staff simply denied knowing anything about it.