|Bill of Rights|
Five members of the Democratic caucus chose to display signs taped next to their nameplates on Monday night. Exercising their First Amendment rights to free speech in solidarity with peaceful protesters in Ferguson, Missouri were Councillor Vop Osili, Councillor Leroy Robinson, Councillor Monroe Gray, Councillor Joe Simpson, and Councillor Brian Mahern.
The problem with the signs, and I don't know if any of the five Councillors noticed this, was that they were posted on the 10th anniversary of the death of IPD Officer Jake Laird. The officer was gunned down in the line of duty on August 18, 2003. The signs posted had a stick figure drawn with its hands up and used the slogan "Hands up, Don't Shoot" which has become a mantra among the protesters in Ferguson, Missouri.
Abdul-Hakim Shabazz noticed.
I have no problem with the Councillors expressing their First Amendment rights. Just because you become an elected official, it doesn't mean you have some obligation to remain quiet. In fact, it's just the opposite. Our community leaders should speak out on issues of the day, and what's going on in Ferguson is a major issue right now.
That said, I think the timing was definitely off, and this might not have been the venue for this type of protest. I can understand why some might have been put off or offended by the actions of the five Councillors.
That, however, is the nature of the First Amendment. It's that same piece of our Constitution that protects the rights of peaceable assembly, of petitioning the government, of the free press, and the exercise of or the lack of exercise of a religion.
The First Amendment is not always nice, and its protected language can sometimes be in your face. You nor I have to like what someone is saying, but we should all defend the basic right to express diverging views from our own.
While I wouldn't have put a sign like that up in front of me on the City-County Council, Councillors Simpson, Gray, Mahern, Osili, and Robinson thought the message needed to get out there. It did.
So, can we go back to discussing the budget now?