Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Councillors Had Right to Protest

Bill of Rights
Monday night while Mayor Greg Ballard presented his budget for 2014, a budget that should have raised questions and warning bells with the media, the actions of five City-County Councillors have reached the spotlight.

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?

2 comments:

kris said...

where would you have put the signs? on your bathroom mirror? they knew what they were doing, and that was exactly the point, to draw attention. doing so in a less conspicuous way would not have people talking. and your primary issue seems to be that it fell on the anniversary of laird's death. what does that matter? can't we hold two thoughts in our head at once--pay honor to a police officer, and speak out against shooting unarmed teenagers. six times. two in the head.

Jim Lingenfelter said...

Jon, two wrongs - the shooting of Officer Laird and the shooting of Mr Brown do not make a right. I wish the councilors had made that point but I am so dismayed by the rush to blame by everyone in all these cases. And by the TSA mentality of arming our police to the teeth with assault weapons and vehicles. And to stirring up the pot with these slogans about I will get out of my car. These are challenges trying to replace the need to teach civility in our communities. When the police elevate to such an intensity what is the correct response? Ronnie R always espoused a position of strength thru deterent weapons. How should the public respond? Lie down and let boot jack thugs with badges round us up and take us to camps? Hummm,,, history seems to be forgotten.