Thursday, April 3, 2008

Did Law Enforcement Officers Violate First Amendment Rights at McCain Rally? Part 2

Picture of Protestor's Sign

Yesterday, I asked everyone if the first amendment rights of protestors were violated at McCain’s PJC rally. Well, I have proof that their rights were violated. I’ve received an email from one of the protestors who corroborated what I reported in yesterday’s post.

The protestors were not disturbing the rally. Also, the PJC police officer that threatened to boot them from the rally was not off-duty. The PJC police officer violated the first amendment rights of the protestors.

In order to speak openly about the incident, the protestors asked that I not divulge their names. The protestors said they went to the rally because they had “the intention of letting people, McCain specifically, know that not all Republicans in Pensacola were blindly following him.”

The protestors said they quietly unfurled their sign at “the very top of the bleachers, so we weren't blocking anyone's view of McCain.

The protestor said about five minutes after the rally started, a local candidate and campaign staffer asked them to stop displaying the sign. The protestors “refused politely”.

After they refused to take down the sign, “A police officer (definitely not off-duty) then confronted us and said "either I take the sign or I take you." After the police officer confronted them, “we decided to not take it any farther and gave her the sign”.

In their email, the protestors talked about their run-in with the same police officer at the last McCain rally in January. “Members of our group, including those I was with, had a confrontation with this same officer last time McCain was at PJC - she seems to have a personal issue with us and our political views.”

After the protestors were forced to stop displaying their sign, they walked outside to discuss the incident. They talked about what happened, decided to go back in, but were denied re-entry. Even though, “other people who didn't speak to us were allowed in”.

This is a very serious incident; The PJC police officer violated the first amendment rights of the protestors and the administration at the college must address this issue. The right to peacefully air your grievances should never be infringed upon, especially on a college campus.

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