Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Blocking traffic is not free speech

I've witnessed a lot logic-straining defenses of the anti-police brutality protesters who are purposely blocking traffic. The main argument seems to be that the people being inconvenienced by the blocked traffic don't have it as bad as victims of police brutality.

I'm sure that's true, but it's beside the point. The same argument could be made for gut-punching strangers or rioting as a form of protest. Why do they feel it's necessary to victimize innocent people? What about people in the back of an ambulance snarled by the traffic they caused?

For what it's worth, one of the things I hated about Cliven Bundy was that he conspired to block traffic as part of his crusade against the government. Ever since a professor at college used it as an example of an act that would not be protected as free speech, I've always brought up that blocking traffic on a highway is an illegal form of a protest because of its actions, never because of its message.

I was hoping to see the ACLU speak against this tactic, but so far I haven't seen the group make any criticisms. However, I did see two cases were the ACLU specifically said people do not have the right to block traffic. There was a Tweet earlier this month:

As well as a timeless webpage where it reminds protesters of their rights. That page specifically says 

Marchers may be required to allow enough space on the sidewalk for normal pedestrian traffic and may not maliciously obstruct or detain passers-by.

Later, it says:

The First Amendment covers all forms of communication including music, theater, film and dance. The Constitution also protects actions that symbolically express a viewpoint. Examples of these symbolic forms of speech include wearing costumes, engaging in sit-ins, or holding a candlelight vigil. However, civil disobedience is generally outside the realm of constitutional protections and may lead to arrest and conviction. Therefore, while sitting in a road may be expressing a political opinion, the act of blocking traffic may lead to criminal punishment.

So just in case anyone wanted to know, the ACLU is not defending this tactic and while it is not criticizing it either, it has been listing it as an illegal tactic worthy of criminal punishment.

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